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Two Music Archives To Receive Vast Harlem Record Collection

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A massive jazz music collection built by a local music writer and his late father will soon head to a new music museum. NY1's Arts reporter Stephanie Simon filed the following report.

Jazz writer and critic Will Friedwald is a pack rat dedicated to the Rat Pack and much more 20th-century American recording artists. He has been chronicling jazz and cabaret for years and collecting the music even longer.

Now, he's donating his collection of about 14,000 albums to two public archives.

"This is a collection that my dad starting putting together around 50, 60 years ago when he was a kid and I just kept going with it," says Friedwald. "So it's just grown exponentially to the point where its just too big for one person to have. As far as I know, it is the largest collection of jazz and popular standards albums in New York City."

Friedwald's collection fills his East Harlem apartment from floor to ceiling, with the all aspects of the Great American Songbook and jazz.

The jazz albums are going to an archive in Washington, D.C., but Friedwald already has a curator's knowledge of his collection.

"As my dad used to say, it's a 'heavy record,' A record that's both good and hard to find, he called a 'heavy record.' And this is about the heaviest record of them all - 'The Prestidigitator,'" says Friedwald.

The popular music and show tunes are going to the Michael Feinstein Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook, founded by the city composer of the same name.

"I decided to create a foundation to create a place for young people to learn about this music," says Feinstein. "We're creating educational programs, and concerts, and there will be a museum and an archive. And all of this is simply to preserve what I think is the greatest music that America ever produced."

Feinstein's music museum, which opens in Carmel, Ind. next year, will be part of a brand new performing arts space.

After spending countless hours and dollars growing his collection, Friedwald is glad it will be appreciated in its new homes.

"This one I looked for years is going to the the Feinstein archive, it's the rarest Mel Tormé verb, it's a set of duets he made with Margaret Whiting," says Freidwald.

The eclectic music collection also includes novelty albums like "Shorty Rogers meets Tarzan," which shows the famed 1950s composer and trumpet player in the arms of Tarzan of the Apes.

By donating his music gems, Friedwald will also tame the musical jungle that's been growing in this apartment for years.

For more information on the Michael Feinstein Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook, visit michaelfeinsteinfoundation.org.

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