SURFING WITH SZWED: One's Man's Jazz Tips On The Internet

SURFING WITH SZWED: One's Man's Jazz Tips On The Internet

by John F. Szwed
originally appeared in Jazziz, August 1999
copyright © 1999 John F. Szwed

By now everyone knows that the internet has become a huge part of the future of jazz. But even the most technologically committed may not yet know that it is rapidly turning into the best source of information on jazz that we are likely to ever have. Granted, the books, magazines and record collections of the best libraries are not yet available on the web, but what's up already is astonishingly rich, easy to use, and is showing signs of outpacing the few libraries devoted to jazz. What follows is merely one fan's notes of some things to be found on the internet (aside from net radio locations and retail outlets, subjects big enough to warrant their own surveys); and though everything available is not listed here, if you look for these resources, many of the rest are guaranteed to turn up in the process.

Many people first experienced internet jazz information on commercial sites, with the belief that with money behind them, they would be the most reliable and easy to use. But now that the flashy, much-touted, and slow-moving Jazz Central Station has gone down (taking with it the Miles Davis page, the Leonard Feather scrapbooks, and Dan Morgenstern's history of jazz), we know better. Where to begin, then? If you're new at this sort of thing you might well start with Northwestern University's WNUR-FM's site (www.nwu.edu/wnur/jazz), which offers musicians' biographies, information on retail outlets on the web, lists of festivals, essays, etc.

But if you have a fair knowledge of jazz, or at least a real passion for it, you'll appreciate Michael Fitzgerald's (www.eclipse.net/~fitzgera) voracious site which includes a lot of everything: a number of musicians' discographies, lists of labels, essays (on the legendary Lennox School of Jazz, for example), and research tools such as lists of musician's pseudonyms and Muslim names. And his links to other jazz sites is an excellent place to begin looking to see what's out there. To find still other links, try Jazz Links (www.pk.edu.pl/~pmj/jazzlinks/artists.html) or Jazz Line (www.jazzonline.com); The Mining Company (jazz.miningco.com); Yahoo (dir.yahoo.com/Entertainment/Music/Genres/Jazz (or dir.yahoo.com/Entertainment/Music/Artists/By_Genre/Jazz); and Webcrawler (webcrawler.com), which seems to promise some 12,000 links! And for singers' links, try Jazz Singers (www.jazzsingers.com/RelatedLinks).

Some of the most interesting sites are those devoted to particular cities. The Jazz Institute of Chicago (www.jazzinstituteofchicago.com), for one, has an on-line newsletter which offers essays, biographies, book reviews, obituaries, and more. The June issue, for example, had some interesting memoirs about Charlie Parker in Chicago, an account of the integration of the Chicago white and black musicians' unions locals in the '60's, and an interview with film composer/song writer David Raksin. But be sure to also look for the interesting sites for Detroit (www.ipl.org/exhibit/detjazz) and Philadelphia (www.jazzchricles.com).

A few cities already have performance schedules posted for them, and Margaret Davis' Art Attack (www.users.interport.net/~eye/jazznyc.html) in New York City is a model for such ventures. Many clubs also have web pages, some of them quite spectacular, such as the Blue Note in New York City (bluenote.net), with its performance calendar, gift shop, and an audio and video archive of past performances; or the Knitting Factory (www.knitmedia.com), which sometimes broadcasts performances live.

For the jazz scene in France try Le Jazz (lejazz.simplenet.com/english) with recent articles, gigs in France and elsewhere, and interviews; or Jazz France (jazzfrance.com/en), which also includes retail sources for French CDs. Both sites are available in English. Not in English, but still essential, is the page of the great French magazine, Jazz (www.jazzmagazine.com), where you can search the current year's issues. For Italy there is Italian Jazz Musicians (www.ijm.it/enhtm), in Italian only, but there are lists of musicians, samples of musical scores, new Italian CDs, and the best Italian recordings as chosen over the years by the writers of the magazine, Musica Jazz.

If you want to connect with other fans, musicians, even industry people, there are discussion and mailing lists where you will encounter some of the most erudite, humorous, and interesting people you'll ever run into (along with a few of the silliest, angriest, and most self-important). Start with discussion lists like rec.music.bluenote - which has a useful FAQ (frequently asked questions list) - or maybe mailing lists like Jazz-L (write listserv@brownvm.brown.edu). Or you might specialize a bit with alt.music.big-band; rec.music.collecting.vinyl; rec.music.collecting.cd; or mailing lists like Dixieland (www.islandnet.com/~djml); Swing (write request@hepcat.com); Avant-Garde (www.onelist.com/subscribe.cgi/Avant-Garde); and Free Jazz (www.freejazz.org). Smooth jazz can be found at Contemporary Jazz (www.contemporaryjazz.com) and Smooth Jazz Vibes (smoothvibes.com) with links in every direction.

There are also mailing lists on all sorts of subjects, such as Eric Dolphy (farcry.neurobio.pitt.edu/Eric.html); Miles Davis (www.wam.umd.edu/~losinp/music/md_sites.html#listserv); John Coltrane (www.nextaxs.com/~jgreshes/lists/coltrane-l.html); Thelonious Monk (www.onelist.com/subscribe.cge/tmonk); Duke Ellington (write majordomo@concordia.ca); Sun Ra (write listserv@nic.surfnet.nl); Stan Kenton (write jazz-kenton-subscribe@merchant.book.uci.edu); or John Zorn and Downtown music (write majordomo@lists.xmission.com). (If you have trouble getting on these lists or want to reach them in digest form, you might try www.deju.com to sample what's on them.)

For earlier forms of jazz, there's Early Jazz Websites (www.jass.com/links.html), which will lead you to things like "The History of Jazz Drumming," "The Jazz Age in Paris, 1914-1940," "Old Sheet Music," and "Traditional Jazz." Or try The Red Hot Jazz Archive (www.redhotjazz.com) for the history of jazz before 1930, with photos, essays, discographies, and even some early films to view on your computer. Then go on to Red Hot and Cool Jazz (members.aol.com/Jlackritz/jazz/index.html) which provides samples of recordings and links on the history of jazz. And at vintage-recordings.com you can hear recorded samples and order tapes and CDs of early jazz and pre-jazz artists available no where else.

If you're willing to go beyond the narrow boundaries of jazz, there's a passionate defense at Acid Jazz (www.cmd.uu.se/AcidJazz); or try the site "provisionally entitled the clue stick of sound" (pages.prodigy.net/ecran21/cluestick), which provides truly eye-opening links and music samples of what it calls "unpopular music."

There are hundreds of musicians' own home pages, such as Steve Coleman's (www.m-base.com) or Dave Holland's (www.daveholland.com), and even more pages created by others on particular musicians (Bill Evans, for example (www.selu.edu/34skid/body_index.html); Billie Holiday (shrike.depaul.edu/~kchoi/index.html or members.xoom.com/_XOOM/ng_varela/billieholiday.htm); for Miles Davis see Miles Ahead (www.wam.umd.edu/~losinp/music/ahead.html) or Milestones (miles.rtvf.nwu.edu/miles/milestones.html). At Albert Ayler (www.utexas.edu/~jeffs/ayler.html), there is a book-length treatment of one of the saints of free jazz. Thelonious Monk can be found on (www.achilles.net/~howardm/tsmonk.htm) or (www.maison-orangina.org/grangina/assocs/jazz/monk). Gene Krupa is at (www.crash.simplenet.com); and Cecil Taylor is represented by Matthew Goodheart's thesis on him (users.lanminds.com/~mgheart/thesis/title.html).

If you want to know what records exist, you can try All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com) with its massive discography, lists, maps, statistics, and glossary. Even though it's not complete and has many uncorrected errors, it's a beginning. Need to know what books and videos are out there? You can go to Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble (especially the latter for sources of out of print books), but the place to really find out what's available is Norbert Ruecker's site (www.jazzrecords.com/jazzbooks/catalog.htm). His list - which is larger and more complete than you'll find in any library - makes a fine bibliography of jazz and blues books and videos in print. And if you can't wait for what's not here yet, there are lists of new and forthcoming CDs on Jazzmatazz (home.att.net/~lankina/jazz/upcomingcds.html) and Ice (www.icemagazine.com).

Of the many 'zines and on-line mags, there are All About Jazz (www.allaboutjazz.com) with its own chat group and recorded samples; Jazz Corner (www.jazzcorner.com) with links to 100-something musicians' and organizations' home pages; and Interjazz (interjazz.com) has musicians' web sites and live and archived interviews. The Wire (www.defuse.com/the-wire) links to a number of unusual sites, and has an archive of articles from recent years. Jazzine (www.jazzine.com/jazzy.html) offers lists, interviews, concert listings, photos, etc. The Jazz Review (www.visionx.com/jazz) has reviews, interviews, photos, and a useful timeline of jazz history (which can also be reached directly by (www.visionx.com/jazz/timeline.html). One of my favorites is Perfect Sound Forever (www.furious.com/perfect), an endlessly fascinating collection of interviews, essays, commentaries, and links, and put together with care and love.

A few sites feature specific writers and critics, such as Mike Zwerin on Culturekiosque (www.culturekiosque.com/jazz/index.htm) or Bret Primack's prickly, and always engaging, Bird Lives! (www.birdlives.com). Photographers, too, are appearing on the internet, and you might start with Herman Leonard's (leonardjazz.com/portfolio), and go on to Michael Wilderman's, William Gottlieb's, William Claxton's, Ray Avery's, etc. The Jazz Journalists Association (www.jazzhouse.org) also provides a wide variety of material from its members in the form of articles, reviews, historical photos, interviews, and discussions, which are open to questions from the public.

Finally, here's a sample of some things you're not going to find anywhere else but internet: to discover the literature and poetry of jazz there is Epistrophy - The Jazz Literature Site (www.ualberta.ca/~mborshuk/jazz.html) with bibliography, samples of poems, novels, author's biographies, and helpful introductory essays on jazz and its relation to literature. The Pantheon of Jazz Trombonists (geocities.com/~5by5) offers essays (thus far) on Jimmy Cleveland, Benny Green, Al Grey, Frank Rehack, and Bill Harris. The Guide to Classical Indian/Jazz Fusion (www.nitehawk.com/alleycat/indyjazz.html) discusses the ties between jazz and classical Indian music, with lists of musicians and recordings which show the influence of Indian musical ideas. 137 Documents on Jazz Improvisation (www.hccq.ohio.gov/Kellysworld/7181.htm) is a big collection of internet writings on improvisation. But if you're looking to be overwhelmed, try the International Archives for the Jazz Organ (www.lwolf.com/iago/iago1.htm), where you can peruse or download a 140-plus page discography of jazz organ recordings; or Harry's Blues Lyrics (tinpan.fortunecity.com/kowalski/112), where Harry is attempting to put 2000 blues lyrics up on the net before the millennium (he's got 440 to go at time of writing), along with his essays and indices by singer, topic, etc.

There's yet more out there than any sane person will want to see. Hopefully, someone someday will index and organize all this. Meanwhile, we monks will have to keep scrabbling.


C o m m e n t s

Jazz In Philly 1 of 2
Jan Klincewicz January 16, 00

Coul not find Philadelphia (www.jazzchricles.com) as mentioned in your article. Is there another URL ??

- Jan www.phillyjazz.org

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