Exhibit featuring jazz icon Billie Holiday comes to the Durham Museum

Lady Day, jazz legend, tours U.S. via Smithsonian exhibit
Posted at 7:18 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 20:18:31-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — From top hits like "God Bless The Child" to more controversial songs such as "Strange Fruit," Billie Holiday's music is the standard to which many hope to aspire to.

"People absolutely loved her, she was a huge celebrity of her time, these moments of peace or serenity behind the scenes when she wasn't in the public eye are really interesting to see," said Jessica Brummer, Director of Communications at the Durham Museum in Omaha.

The Durham Museum is excited to display the intimate and unexpected journey into the private life and public world of legendary jazz singer-songwriter, also known as "Lady Day."

"You are going to see her on stage with the amazing gowns, the beautiful jewelry that she wore. She was beautiful but also confident. She had her convictions on the things she believed in and she conveyed that through her music. I also think you see a gentle side and that is what makes this show unique," continues Brummer.

The traveling Smithsonian exhibit is the largest collection of images from any single Billie Holiday club performance, consisting of 56 images.

The photographer behind the photos, Jerry Dantzic, only used available light, which gives the exhibit a true life authenticity to illustrate Holiday's successes and tragedies.

The images are from her Sugar Hill Club performance in Newark as well as the New York Jazz Festival on Randall's Island, both from1957, according to a handout from the Durham Museum.

Holiday died at the age of 44, just two years after the photos were captured.

The Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill photo exhibit starts Saturday, Dec. 4 and runs until Feb. 27.

In conjunction with the exhibition, The Durham will also present A Territory of Sound: African American Jazz Orchestras in Early 20th Century Omaha.

Omaha served as an important stepping stone in the careers of many jazz musicians in the early half of the 20th century. Local acts like Nat Towles’ Orchestra toured around the Midwest while major acts like Duke Ellington and Count Basie came to town to play and often left with new backing musicians hired straight from local orchestras.

This exhibit showcases a few of those stories with a focus on the impact of musicians in territory bands and their roles in supporting the growth of jazz in Omaha and throughout the country.

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