This photo of Louis “Pops” Armstrong, taken outside his house in Queens, NY, is one of hundreds donated to collection by acclaimed jazz photographer Herb Snitzer.
The Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection had its beginning in early 1988, when Cohn was terminally ill. A close friend, trumpeter Ralph Hughes, first approached East Stroudsburg University with the idea of starting a jazz archive at the university. The Pocono Mountains region of Pennsylvania had become home turf for dozens of jazz musicians, singers and artists, many with world-renowned reputations, and a jazz archive at ESU would be a natural fit. Hughes suggested that it be named for Al Cohn — an appropriate tribute to a man known to his fellow musicians as “Mr. Music.”
With the approval of Cohn’s wife, Flo, the backing of Phil Woods and other prominent jazz musicians and friends, and the support of ESU, that idea became a reality shortly after Cohn’s death. James E. Gilbert, University President at that time, said he believed the collection was “a significant addition to our institution,” and felt sure it would “attract other collections of jazz memorabilia and develop into a significant depository of the genre of 20th Century desiderata.”
Gilbert’s words were prescient. Over the years, countless supporters have donated their time, talent, money and artifacts to the collection. Today, thousands of recordings and photographs, along with sheet music, oral history interviews, videos, books, original artwork and assorted memorabilia are numbered among its holdings.