copyright © 2007 Bob Porter
The Jazz Discography CD-ROM by Tom Lord
In the beginning, there was nothing. Then there was Hot Discography and Rhythm On Record. After that came Jazz Information and, in time, the Brian Rust (1897-1942) Volumes 1 & 2 and the multi-volume work of Jorgen Grunnet Jepsen (1942-1962) each titled Jazz Records. Along the way there were separate volumes for Blues and Blues/Gospel. Some volumes were continually updated (Rust, the Dixon-Godrich-(beginning with the 3rd edition) Rye, (Blues And Gospel Records, 1890-1943) while others were started, stopped and revived with a new team (Blues Records 1943-70). When the Jepsen revisions, under Erik Raben, were announced shortly after the 1970 publication of the final volume of Jazz Records 1942-(now) 1969, there appeared to be the chance of a solid future for post-war discography.
Alas, publication of Jazz Records 1942-1980 proved to be ponderously slow and it finally petered out after seven hard-cover volumes and one CD-ROM, ending in the middle of letter G. There have been several other important discographers who have contributed to the field in various ways and recently there has a new single volume paperback edition on post-war blues titled The Blues Discography, 1943-1970 but there is no one individual who has dominated the field like Tom Lord. Beginning in 1992 with the first volume of The Jazz Discography, Lord has marched relentlessly on to achieve a total of 34 printed volumes. Now, we have a revision of his CD-ROM version.
While the format of most general discographies hasn't changed that much, CD-ROM makes possible some positive changes: there are several different options available when attempting to locate a session and Lord is receptive to corrections that can be implemented on the spot. He claims that as many as three dozen new sessions are being added every day.
He began thinking that everything should be included but changed his mind after letter A. I found about 50 entries in letter A that were either Cajun or Gospel artists and I am told they have now been removed. This discography is badly in need of a corps of proofreaders. There are plenty of misspellings and locations, especially, should be updated.
Once upon a time, there was considerable argument about what was jazz and what was not jazz. To attempt to separate out marginal material from an artist's career seems hopeless at this stage. We used to joke about the inclusion of every "Polish Dixieland Band" in the old days but in The Jazz Discography even the most aware researcher will encounter thousands of entries for artists you have never heard. It doesn't help that the record business has become, to a large extent, an industry dominated by amateurs. Anyone can make his own jazz record today and be included in The Jazz Discography.
It seems likely that, long term, record collecting (including CDs) will be viewed as a 20th century phenomenon. With all the downloading going on and the prospect of substantial quality enhancement for that endeavor, the handwriting seems to be on the wall. Soon you'll be able to text-message liner notes and cover art (if it isn't already being done).
When I am asked how to get younger people interested in jazz or blues, I respond that you tell them they can't have it! With all the media promoting all the junk that passes for music these days, there are sure to be millions of people who will never encounter a Ben Webster ballad, a Jimmy Smith blues, or almost anything by Louis, Bird or Duke Ellington. We need to make the discovery of jazz an adventure again. Something that is not for everyone, something you won't find on MTV (or BET Jazz, for that matter), something you must find on your own. Remember the thrill of digging out that 78 in the basement of the thrift shop, or the LP test pressing you found with no jacket? How about the band remotes on late-night radio? I fear it won't be long before those opportunities will completely cease to exist. But until then, and probably after that, you will need The Jazz Discography, imperfect as it is, in some form or another.
The Jazz Discography is available from Lord Music Reference Inc., 1540 Taylor Way, West Vancouver, B.C., V7S 1N4, Canada.