Why aren't Down Beat and Metronome magazines digitally archived and available online? The two publications are perhaps the most significant and authoritative chronicles of the jazz scene in the 1940s and 1950s. Even if you're not researching these periods, they are fascinating publications to browse and read casually. The excitement and energy of the period virtually leaps off the pages.
At DownBeat.com, there's an "archive" tab. When you click on it, you're taken to a page with content that reads: "Our online archives already contain a wealth of articles previously published in DownBeat—and are expanding every week." Yeah, but at a snail's pace. Try typing "Dizzy Gillespie" into the search engine and you find a 1999 article and some critics poll data. Same goes for most major jazz artists. As for Metronome, I have no idea who owns the rights to that publication and why it's missing in action.
One assumes the reason for these publications not being available online boils down to two words: "no money." But is that a fair excuse today? Jazz Studies Online, which is sponsored by Columbia University and receives support from the Ford Foundation, features Nat Hentoff's Jazz Review (1958-1960) online along with many other articles and publications.
Rolling Stone is another leader in the online archive effort. I recently signed up for the magazine's "All Access" package that lets you visit with its vast past. Not only do you get to search Rolling Stone's treasure trove of articles, you can view them on the very color pages in which they originally appeared.
Down Beat and Metronome's owners are sitting on jazz history. They may want to donate their 1940s and 1950s issues to a university like Columbia or Rutgers, which have robust jazz studies programs. Clearly Columbia's jazz department knows the importance of web access and can get the job done. Or perhaps partnering with Google or another cash-rich foundation may be ideal for online archiving.
Either way, it's rather unfair and irresponsible in the digital age for those who own the rights to these publications to do nothing with their past or claim poverty. There simply are too many partners out there eager to make this material available and preserve the music's history.
JazzWax Insider alert! The November issue of the JazzWax Insider will be going out to subscribers soon. If you haven't signed up yet for your copy, do so now. It is emailed out monthly and it's free. Go here.
Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew at the Rock. Fats Domino's daughter, Adonica, emailed me yesterday to note that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just posted video clips of its New Orleans tribute last week. Go here. For my interview with Fats and Dave in the Wall Street Journal, go here.
Keeping readers happy. Writing daily about jazz, rock and r&b is one thing. Becoming an essential part of people's lives worldwide is a humbling experience. I am always touched and gratified when readers send along emails telling me how much they enjoy my columns or articles. Such sensitive expressions warm my heart and inspire me to work harder.
And then there are letters like this one from Stuart Anello that arrived last week:
"I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all the time you invest writing JazzWax. I always love a great book on jazz and the musicians who play it, and because of your work, we have access to so much insight on a daily basis. Beyond this, your work has provided me with something I will not soon forget.
"On August 17 this past summer, I left the comfort of home, friends and family to begin basic training in the United States Navy. I am a graduate of Berklee College of Music, and was accepted into the United States Navy Music Program as a guitarist in May. It is required that all Navy musicians are sailors, so a few months after being accepted, I found myself bald, cut off from civilization and without music in any form during my training.
"It was challenging to stay motivated in boot camp, and I would always question how I ended up in such a place. Thankfully my thoughtful girlfriend (now wife) came up with the idea to send me printouts of JazzWax.
"Through your writing, I was able to connect again to the reasons I joined the service. The motivation that you provided made boot camp a vastly easier place to handle. I would reread each article almost every day and would be filled with joy, and I'd spend days dreaming about my future with the Navy Band.
"I survived boot camp and am now at the Navy School of Music. I'm very happy practicing on my Navy-issued custom Gibson and a brand new Paul Reed Smith electric guitar! Life is good as a Navy Musician, and getting here was not challenging because of your help. Thank you so much."
By the way, Stuart's wife Geraldine is a musician and writes a lovely blog here.
Record sleeves. Yes, there are enthusiast sites for just about everything these days. Last week I stumbled across one by a graphic designer that's devoted to exciting 45-rpm record sleeves. Go here.
Art Blakey. Filmmaker Bret Primack is featuring a rare clip of Art Blakey with Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter in 1959 at his YouTube page...
Jazz radio in Kentucky. Last week I mentioned that Danny O'Bryan, who has interviewed Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich and other legends in the 1980s, hosts “Jazz Insights” on WFPK in Louisville, Ky. My bad— I forgot to include a link to his show, which you can hear Sundays from 8 to 10 a.m. (EST). Listen from anywhere in the world by going here.
CD discoveries of the week: Patrick Williams has long been thought of solely as a creator of pop and soundtrack fare. His new album Aurora (ArtistShare) should quickly shatter that stereotype. If you like your bands really big and swinging, you'll dig this one. Williams composed and arranged all of the material, and he conducted the 27-piece Hollywood band. Guys like Tom Scott, Hubert Laws and Arturo Sandoval are along for the ride. Sample the moody and restless Heat or spirited Fanfare for a New Day. Or my favorite, a breezy Mandeville. The entire album swings from start to finish. Think Henry Mancini falling into Stan Kenton's lap and being helped up by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. Hey, there are three French horns here, too! You'll find Aurora at iTunes and here.
Guitarist Simone Gubbiotti lives in Perugia, Italy. He also plays a superb guitar. On his recent album Sinergy, he's backed by Joe Bagg on organ and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Huge taste here. Most of the tunes are originals, but the group squeezes off a few standards—It Could Happen to You, Beautiful Love and We Will Meet Again. What's particularly poignant about the last track is that LaBarbera first recorded this track with pianist Bill Evans on an album of the same name in 1979. Sample E.N., Mind the Gap and It Could Happen to You, which opens with a Waltz for Debby riff. Solid, swinging work all around. You'll find Sinergy at iTunes or here.
If you're looking for an exciting new full-bodied sound, consider Raul Jaurena and His Tango Orchestra's Fuerza Milonguera (SoundBrush). Jaurena is one of the world's leading players of the bandoneon, which is the concertina found in Argentina and Uruguay, where Jaurena was born. Sample Parrillera, Taquito Militar, A Fuego Lento and Como Dos Extranos, which features vocalist Marga Mitchell. Deep passion, plenty of torment and the real red-meat deal. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
Since we're living in the download age, I want to recommend a track. On cellist Matt Haimovitz's album Meeting of the Spirits, David Sanford has arranged Miles Davis' Half Nelson for a drum-less string section. You must hear what he does with it. Deft dramatic beauty, and I hope Sanford will arrange an entire album of similar jazz fare for strings. For instance, I'd love to hear Repetition and Boplicity this way. Sanford, who founded the Pittsburgh Collective and is a professor of music at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, gives Half Nelson just the right amount of grace and edge. You'll find Meeting of the Spirits (Oxingale) at iTunes.
Oddball album covers of the week: The cover of this 1958 album on the Tampa label based in Hollywood pulls no punches when it comes to exploiting models for music. Makes you wonder how long it took for the photographer's assistant to line up the fingers on her right hand that way. Interestingly, Barney Kessel and Harold Land did not appear together on this album. The connection was Jimmy Rowles, who appeared on the two different dates. The album above combined them. The Kessel session was actually led by Rowles and originally sported an even dopier attempt at art. This one featured a skimpily clad teacher schooling a daffy swing-challenged student. For some odd reason the image of our jazz dunce was reduced for the cover so he's no taller than our seated tutoring pinup. Or perhaps that's what happens to your size when you stare too long at thighs.