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Identifier: MC 009

The Ismay and George Duvivier Papers, Artifacts, and Audiovisual Materials



  • 1900-1989

Scope and Content Note

Series 1 and 2 document the careers of George and Ismay Duvivier respectively. Series 1.1 contains musical works that were composed and/or arranged by George Duvivier and his contemporaries, including big band arrangements for Jimmy Lunceford, one of Duvivier's influences. Duvivier arranged for Lunceford's orchestra in the 1940's. In addition to these works, Series 1.1 contains other manuscript full scores (big band charts), band parts, lead sheets and sketches. Of note in Series 1.2 are a number of photographs inscribed to George Duvivier from celebrities and well-known musicians. In addition to open reel audio tapes and vinyl discs, Series 1.3 contains a cache of unique lacquer discs with studio and live performances by George Duvivier and his contemporaries. Series 2 contains documents and photographs from Ismay Duvivier's employment as an entertainer and as a nurse. Of note is a scrapbook documenting her career as a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance.

Materials concerning the academic, religious, family and civic activities of Ismay and George Duvivier are in Series 3. Voice leading and harmony exercises from the time of George’s conservatory studies are in Series 3.1. Series 3.3 contains extensive travel photographs, slides and negatives of trips around the globe. Photographs from George’s service in the army during the Second World War are in Series 3.5.


35 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

This collection is in English with some French.


The Ismay and George Duvivier Papers, Realia and Audiovisual Materials document the professional and personal lives of bassist, arranger and composer George Duvivier and his mother Ismay (née Blakely) Duvivier, a Harlem Renaissance era entertainer.

<emph render="bold">Biographical Note</emph>

Ismay Duvivier was born August 27, 1903, to George Alexander Blakely and Beatrice Peebles Blakley in St. Croix (Danish West Indies). The Blakelys moved to New York City (NYC) in 1909. Ismay attended East Hampton High School and graduated from PS 119, James Russell Lowell School, in Manhattan in 1919. In the following year, Ismay married Leon Vincent Duvivier and gave birth to her only child, George.

In 1929, Ismay went into show business as a chorus girl and dancer. For three years Ismay worked on the Theater Owner’s Booking Association (T.O.B.A.) circuit performing throughout the East Coast of the United States. The famous Cotton Club, a NYC night club located first in Harlem and then the Theater District, was one of many venues where Ismay performed. She also danced with notable jazz performers and band leaders such as Cab Calloway, Blanche Calloway and Ethel Waters. Ismay left show business in 1932 and began working as a nurse at Lincoln Hospital in Brooklyn, New York where she worked for thirty years. Ismay earned a practical nurse certification and license from the state of New York in 1940. She died on February 6, 2004.

George Burnett Duvivier was born August 17, 1920 to Leon and Ismay Duvivier in New York City. Duvivier’s formal music education began in 1928 when he was enrolled at the Conservatory of Musical Art in New York City and began instruction in violin. While playing violin with the Central Manhattan Symphony, Duvivier started playing bass around 1934, and it remained his primary instrument for the rest of his career. In 1939 Duvivier accepted a music scholarship to New York University, where he studied bass performance, composition and arrangement, but he did not complete a degree before being inducted into military service in 1942.

George Duvivier was active as a bassist, arranger and composer in New York City from around 1935 until his death in 1985, and he briefly composed for and rehearsed military ensembles in Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Fort Warren, Wyoming during his Army service. Highlights of his musical career include playing, arranging and composing for Count Basie, Benny Carter, Bing Crosby, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Lena Horne, Quincy Jones, Tito Puente and Doc Severinsen, as well as performing with the bands of the Today Show, Merv Griffin Show and the Dick Cavett Show. George Duvivier died of cancer on July 11, 1985.


  1. Berger, Edward. Bassically Speaking: An Oral History of George Duvivier. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1993.
  2. Duvivier, George B. “Condensed Resume.” Ismay and George Duvivier Papers, Realia, and Audiovisual Materials, 1903-1993, MC 009, Box 12, Folder 1, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University Libraries.

Arrangement Note

The Ismay and George Duvivier Papers, Realia, and Audiovisual Materials are arranged in three series.

Series 1. George Duvivier Professional Papers and Audiovisual Materials, 1940-1986

  1. 1.1 Music, 1940-1956
  2. 1.2 Photographs, 1940-1985
  3. 1.3 Sound Recordings, 1941-1985
  4. 1.4 Business Records, 1942-1986

Series 2. Ismay Duvivier Professional Papers, 1920-1969

Series 3. Ismay and George Duvivier Personal Papers and Realia, 1900-1989

  1. 3.1 Education, 1910-1938
  2. 3.2 Religion, 1912-1979
  3. 3.3 Travel, 1920-1987
  4. 3.4 Vital Records, Correspondence, Photographs and Realia, 1900-1989
  5. 3.5 Public and Military Service, 1936-1985

Related Material

The Institute of Jazz Studies holds the Benny Carter Papers and the Benny Carter Audio Collection.

Processing Note

This collection was processed during the 2014 Jazz Archives Fellowship Program at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Dana Library, Rutgers University – Newark by fellows Barrye Brown, Joy Doan, Rory Grennan and Manuel Jusino and staff members Adrian Cuervo, Tad Hershorn, Angela Lawrence and Elizabeth Surles.

Guide to the Ismay and George Duvivier Papers, Realia, and Audiovisual Materials, 1900-1989
Barrye Brown, Joy Doan, Rory Grennan, Manuel Jusino, Angela Lawrence, Tad Hershorn, Elizabeth Surles and Adriana Cuervo
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Part of the Institute of Jazz Studies Repository

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