History of Jazz Archeology: Jazz music is an important part of our culture. Since its birth in the U.S.A. in the beginning of the 20th century, it has conquered the world. It has grown, it has changed, and it has survived. Through the years more than one million young artists have called themselves “jazz musicians” or something to that sort. This estimate is impossible to prove, but it is a fact that until the early 1980s, 65 000 musicians had visited a studio to make a jazz record (ref. Walter Bruyninckx. “60 years of recorded jazz”). Imagine what the number must be today. The number of different records, from the early 78 rpm.s of various sizes, through the EP and LP stage, to the current CD products, must be equally overwhelming.
Parallell to the development of jazz music itself, its history has been documented by self-educated scholars, using all their energy for their great love. Jazz discographies to document jazz record production, dates and personnels, as well as magazines and books, appeared already in the 1930s, when jazz was still young. However it seems that documentation has played a losing game against the viability of jazz itself; jazz has simply grown too fast. Today comprehensive, up-to-date jazz discographies exist, although updating and error correction seem to be losing games. With regard to non-commercial material, the documentation is still rather arbitrary. Recorded jazz may be be reasonably well identified, but completeness will probably always be out of grasp.
Note, however, that we have been talking about records, not the music itself. Since the most important factor in jazz is the improviser himself, the artist, documentation should also be concentrated upon the individual performer. It ought to be easy to select a jazz musician, famous or obscure, and have easy access to all aspects of his artistic production. Nevertheless, in this area, the documentation process is still only in the beginning. The concept of name-discography is no longer new, but has been applied but to only a very limited number of major jazz performers.
The next logical step is almost never taken; the identification of actual solo performances and the details associated with the improvisation itself. My idea of a “jazz solography”, dating back to 1968, was well received as measured by the response to the 14 volumes in the “Jazz Solography Series”. Nevertheless, it was never adopted by other jazz scholars as an interesting and necessary means for proper musical documentation. Possibly this was due to the enormousness of the task; records have not only to be identified, they have to be played and listened to several times, “measured” and evaluated, and finally the results to be processed and published in order to have information value. Only Frank Büchmann-Møller in “You Got To Be Original Man! – The Music Of Lester Young” has elaborated on the solography concept. The fact is that even for most of the main jazz performers, there are no existing, comprehensive “data bases”. With the assistance of artist sorting facilities in modern databased discographies, one is able to locate the recording sessions of ones favourites, even in chronological order. But if one wants to know where they actually are soloing, and what kind of artistic results are created, one is stuck with no answer. In fact, seen in this perspective, we know almost nothing about jazz history! The fine details, which make out jazz improvisation as an important area of art, are in danger of being lost in a big mess. The future will have a very hard time finding out what qualities jazz of the 20th century really possessed. This book is aiming to help the 21th century by doing some basic research work, to put some structure in the chaos.
My choice of jazz personalities to be documented through the solography concept started in 1968 primarily with the tenor saxophone and the trumpet of the “golden 1930s”, but also other instruments were involved in my “Jazz Solography Series” and its 14 volumes. Later I decided to document the tenor saxophone more systematically, resulting in “History of Jazz Tenor Saxophone – Black Artists”, Vol. 1-6, covering all artists from the beginning into the 1960s.
However, a strategic decision had to be made with regard to future research work and publication. How to reach a potential market, whatever that was? To advertise through usual book channels or jazz magazines seemed rather inefficient. And to continue to print and distribute research reports large as telephone dictionaries seemed to be too costly. To put a profit upon all the production, marketing and distribution costs involved would certain result in consumer price prohibitively high.
I therefore decided to create the “Jazz Archeology” internet page as a “home” for past and future jazz solography works. No need really to try to earn money from work which anyway is just “labour of love”.
All previous solography work will be transferred to Jazz Archeology, updated as far as possible. In addition, numerous new jazz artists will be treated as quickly as time permits and external attention and encouragement stimulate.
There are many “missing items” in the solographies presented, and hopefully there are somebody able and willing to help. There must also be much unissued and/or undocumented material lying dormant in unknown basements all over the world, material which needs to be excavated now, before it is too late! The concept of “jazz archeology” is concerned just with digging out historical jazz treasures and ensure they are not lost forever.
My profound wish is to make Jazz Archeology a meeting place for those jazz collectors and enthusiast who share my enthusiasm for vintage jazz and would like to communicate, discuss, protest, assist in research process.
Looking forward to have your feedback!!
Jazz Archeologist – May 20, 2011 Oslo, NORWAY