News from the National Jazz Archive
Newsletter 4/2021, June 2021

Archive open again

We’re delighted that the Archive is open again for staff and volunteers. We are able to receive visitors again, but by appointment only. If you would like to visit the Archive, please contact our research archivist David Nathan – phone 020 8502 4701 during opening hours, or email 

Jazz book sale continues

Our fundraising sale of donated books continues this month with more than 60 titles. Featured this month are books by Humphrey Lyttelton (to mark the centenary of his birth on 29 May 1921), ‘Hear me talkin’ to ya’ – oral jazz history books, ‘The world of jazz’ – with a range of marvellous books about the music, Louis Armstrong – including two unusual first editions, jazz in photographs – with stunning images by famous photographers, and ‘Swing, swing, swing!’ – books about the great big bands and bandleaders.

Three special items are also offered on a limited time auction:
•    ‘Oh, Mr Jelly’ – A Jelly Roll Morton scrapbook, compiled by William Russell
•    Hendersonia – The music of Fletcher Henderson and his musicians. A bio-discography by Walter C Allen
•    Storyville magazine – complete set of issues, 1965–2001.

The books come from the generous gifts and legacy donations by Geoff Barton, Michael Brocking, Nick Cottis, Les Dunnett, Pam and Tony Elliott, Tony Farsky, Graham Langley, Jill Lince, Chris Lowe, Jon Oliver, Richard Pite, David Sharpe and John Sturgess, to whom we are very grateful. 

We have only one copy of many of them, so email quickly to check that the books you want are still available. 

Darius Brubeck Quartet – 18 September

At the time of writing, the Archive’s first fundraising concert this year planned for 18 September is still expected to go ahead, with the Darius Brubeck Quartet celebrating the music of Dave Brubeck. With Darius on piano will be Dave O’Higgins on sax, Matt Ridley on bass and Wesley Gibbens on drums. The group were scheduled to play for us last April so we are delighted to welcome them again, after such a difficult time.

The event will be held strictly in accordance with Government guidance and regulations. Further details will be available soon. 

Welcome to new trustees 

The National Jazz Archive is delighted to announce the appointment of two new trustees to the board: Martin Astell and Ellie Pridgeon.

Both were appointed in April 2021 and bring a wealth of complementary archive experience to the 13-person board.

Martin is Manager of Essex Record Office, based in Chelmsford. He has worked with a range of archives, including the National Gallery in London and has previously specialised in audio-visual collections.

Ellie has worked with a range of prestigious and diverse organisations, including the Science Museum and Imperial War Museum. She has her own archive consultancy and has held lectureships at Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

The trustees formally welcomed Martin and Ellie when they attended their first board meeting via video conference on 26 April 2021.

Read more about the experience provided by Martin and Ellie and the other members of the board through our trustee profiles.

What has jazz done for you?

At the end of last year, we posed several questions to our newsletter subscribers: “What has jazz done for you?”, “How will you conserve your jazz collection?” and “What did Melody Maker do for you?”

The purpose was a simple request for financial support for the work of the Archive. Many of you were very generous and, with Gift Aid, you donated just short of £4000. The trustees were very grateful for this tremendous support and hopefully, everyone received a personal note of thanks.

Six months on, here is some insight into how your donations have been used. 

Much of the work at the Archive is done by our fantastic team of volunteers: working from home or one day a week in the Archive, volunteers carry out the massive job of sorting, cataloguing and digitising the personal archives that have been donated. These include the photographs of Brian Foskett, over 700 of which have been digitised, and which are steadily being uploaded to the Archive’s website. It is the digitisation costs that your donations are going towards and many more of these images will be available to view over the coming months.

We have an almost complete collection of Melody Maker, published from 1926 through to the early 1980s. Newsprint has to be treated correctly to remain in readable condition, and stored in conservation standard, acid-free boxes. Again, your donations have enabled us to buy these boxes to store the several thousand fragile copies of the paper. For research purposes, our MM collection can be viewed on CD-Rom during a pre-arranged visit to the Archive while the originals are now safely conserved and stored. 

The next major project will be the conservation of Les Tomkins’ archive. Les was a jazz journalist who had complete access to the major jazz artists who appeared at Ronnie Scott’s Club. With his Ferrograph reel-to-reel recorder, Les interviewed both British and international stars. Transcripts of many of his interviews can already be read on the Archive’s website. However, many of his tapes contain not only the interviews but also live performances by Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Tubby Hayes and many more, captured at Ronnie’s.

Reel-to-reel tapes are a reasonably stable format, but conservation requires the original tapes to be re-recorded and digitised. The tapes then need to be stored in a temperature-controlled environment.

For the future, a number of personal archives are waiting their turn for conservation. These include the photographic archive of jazz-loving photographer, Brian Browning. Brian was a regular visitor to his local jazz club, and he donated his complete collection to the Archive in addition to a significant financial donation.

Thank you to all those who have supported the Archive in the past – we hope many of you will continue to support us in the future. For more ways your support can help in conserving our jazz heritage, visit the website.

The photos show (top) sorting and identifying Brian Foskett’s photographs, Melody Maker being installed in archive-quality storage boxes, and the composite photo on display in the Archive in thanks to Brian Browning. 

Back to the beginning with Bix

Roger Cotterrell takes a retrospective look at an evocative and engaging memoir by jazz writer Ralph Berton in a new article on the Archive website.

It takes real skill and talent to be able to evoke in print a completely vanished social world – like, for example, the so-called ‘jazz age’ in America in the 1920s. For all of us that is just history now and, while historians can tell us about it, very few can conjure up its atmosphere. Jazz memoirs written by musicians who lived in that time tell their personal stories, usually vividly if also often unreliably.

A lot of those memoir books came into British jazz fans’ hands through the wonderful old Jazz Book Club which produced cheap editions of the stories of such as Sidney Bechet, Max Kaminsky and Willie ‘the Lion’ Smith. Some of my favourite reminiscences are those by or about guitarist Eddie Condon, filtered apparently through an alcoholic haze, and full of speakeasy wit and perhaps a fair amount of invention.

All these books are a good read, but the one that for me best evokes a mythical time called the jazz age is Ralph Berton’s Remembering Bix. In part it is a hero-worshipping account of the author’s brief, intense friendship with the legendary cornetist Bix Beiderbecke; in part it is a graphic account of what it was to be young and carefree as a hedonistic jazz fan and general hell-raiser in 1920s urban America.

I had known about Berton’s book for many years but read it only recently thanks to the National Jazz Archive’s regular book sale, which makes available such marvellous gems at extremely reasonable prices. The sale performs a great service by putting back in circulation classic jazz books donated to the Archive but duplicating its holdings and so available for resale to help National Jazz Archive funds.

You can read the full article on the Archive website, along with a biographical note about Ralph Berton and his rich and complicated life.

Photograph of Ralph Berton from the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, Ralph Berton Collection.

Top 10 most asked questions about jazz

By analysing queries asked about jazz on the internet, we have identified 10 of the most commonly asked questions and aim to answer them in this three-part series.

The National Jazz Archive wants to help newcomers to this great art form by providing this introductory information in one place, addressing questions about jazz history, its most famous and significant artists, the development of its various forms, and its cultural impact. Inevitably there are controversies but we have tried to steer a middle course through them.

As well as looking through these popular questions and answers, we hope you’ll explore the online resources on our website, including our popular jazz timeline. Whether you are researching jazz or are a new enthusiast wanting to know more, we hope you’ll enjoy learning about jazz and its rich history.

This first part addresses the questions:
•    What is jazz?
•    When did jazz start?
•    Where did jazz originate?
•    What is the origin of jazz?
•    How did jazz travel?

Photo: the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1919, from Jazz Illustrated, May 1950, digitised and held at the National Jazz Archive.

Documenting Jazz: 23–26 June

The third Documenting Jazz conference is being hosted by Edinburgh College of Art from 23 to 26 June. It seeks to draw together colleagues with an interest in jazz studies from a diverse array of backgrounds and welcomes contributions from scholars of all career stages, independent and non-academically affiliated scholars and researchers, critics, archivists, and practitioners to foster an atmosphere of rich interdisciplinary discussion and debate.

Documenting Jazz 2021 will be held online, and is free and open to all. 

The full programme, featuring no fewer than 21 sessions over four days, is available on the conference website, along with free registration via EventBrite. 

The opening session focuses on archives, and will bring together those engaged with documenting, preserving, and disseminating jazz research via their involvement with jazz archives. The session welcomes by invitation all those with an active interest in jazz archives and will feature three short presentations as well as introductions and updates from jazz archives in the UK and Ireland, followed by an open discussion/Q&A. The session will be chaired by Conference Chair Dr Marian Jago, University of Edinburgh.

The keynote speaker will be award-winning critic and writer Nate Chinen. Nate has been writing about jazz for more than 20 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and wrote a long-running column for JazzTimes. His talk – ‘All God’s Children Got Algorithm: How Jazz Went Down the Tubes’ – will be given on Thursday 24 June, from 17:30 to 19:00.

National Jazz Archive on social media

Since the start of the first lockdown in early 2020, the Archive’s trustees and volunteers have been spreading the word about our website via the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

After over a year of posting five times a week across all three platforms, we have seen a remarkable increase in visits to our website and visitors discovering all the amazing material available.

All the images used in these posts have been gleaned from the website itself or from our partner, Brian O’Connor’s ImagesOfJazz archive. To add to the appeal, we have tried to produce posts with a weekly theme.

Among the features have been great UK trumpeters, UK female jazz singers, US stars at Ronnie Scott’s, and many more. The photographers featured have included Denis Williams, Brian Foskett and our new collection of John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins.

Currently, we are working towards adding more images to our collection but apart from the sterling efforts of our volunteers, there is an inevitable cost involved in digitising the photographs so they can be uploaded to the NJA website.

If you’re a regular user of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, why not check out the coming posts from National Jazz Archive? Here are our links:

Cataloguing the Paul Oliver Archive collection

The Paul Oliver Archive of African American Music has been housed at Oxford Brookes University since 2016, and includes 250 audio reels, thousands of rare LPs, hundreds of books and magazines, and 81 linear metres of music research material. A new cataloguing project is bringing the material into the public eye for the first time, opening access to 1960s interviews featuring over 60 jazz and blues artists, as well as hundreds of photographs from the same decade, writes Elizabeth Stubbs, project cataloguer.

While the collection is well-known within the academic blues and jazz community, a lack of cataloguing meant that the material has been difficult to access. But now, with funding from the European Blues Association and an Archives Revealed grant from The National Archives, this valuable collection is finally beginning to open for use.

Paul Oliver was a phenomenal man. Not only a world expert in blues music, he also spent 10 years as associate head of the School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes, effortlessly pursuing an international career across two domains of study. Publishing his first article on the blues in Jazz Journal in 1952, Paul went on to write and contribute to over 20 books, as well as hundreds of articles on jazz, blues, ragtime, boogie-woogie, and all associated genres. The new accessibility of his collection is a landmark in jazz and blues research. 

The project is still in its early stages and faces some hurdles, including complicated copyright claims and difficulties created by COVID-19. Nevertheless, significant headway has been made with Paul’s analogue material, including drafts of his numerous books, transcripts of his radio shows, and information about the diverse exhibitions and lectures that he delivered throughout his life. More pertinently for those of us in the socially-distanced landscape, great progress has also been made with the digitised interviews held in the collection, allowing for remote access.

In 1960 Paul visited America to record interviews with blues and jazz musicians, and various civil rights activists, for the creation of the radio series Conversation with the Blues broadcast on the BBC Third Programme. Digitised with funding from the European Blues Association, the large majority of this material has now been catalogued, and a list of the interviews and their contents can be found here. Interviewees include Roosevelt Sykes, Lonnie Johnson, Sammy Price, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Gus Cannon, to name just a few. We are also delighted that several other interview recordings have been discovered in the collection, which were not used in the BBC Third Programme broadcasts and which we are currently cataloguing. 

In addition to the exciting interviews, we will soon be cataloguing the extensive collection of photographs that Paul took during this influential research trip. Along with the interviews he captured hundreds of photographs during his time in America, varying from portraits of jazz and blues musicians to landscape shots of life in the 1960s. Some of this material was used in his book Conversation with the Blues, but much has remained out of public access – until now. 

As we move forward with the project, we are hoping to once again open our physical archive collections to the public. But, until then, much of our material is available to access remotely, for study, research, or just personal interest. Simply send a request for photographs or interviews to and we will get back to you as soon as possible. 

We will equally be providing updates about the project via our Twitter page, and we welcome all enquiries regarding the material and project.

The photos show: Little Walter (left), Sunnyland Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Jump Jackson, Paul Oliver and Little Brother Montgomery, Chicago, 1960; Muddy Waters Band at the Tay May Club, Chicago, 1960. From left, Muddy Waters, Pat Hare and James Cotton; Otis Rush in 1970.

APPJAG review of jazz in England

Following an enforced delay due to the global pandemic and a year of unprecedented change, challenges, and specific hardships for working musicians, the All Party Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) has commissioned a review of jazz in England. The review will be undertaken by APPJAG’s Secretary, Chris Hodgkins, and an expert advisory panel, chaired by musician and jazz educator Dr Kathy Dyson.

If you are a jazz musician, a professional working in the jazz industry or a jazz fan, the review wants to hear from you through five questionnaires that can be downloaded from the review website.

Four questionnaires deal with gigs, festivals, audiences and musicians and a fifth is for people and organisations who want to address the terms of reference or a particular area.

The closing date for returning the questionnaires is midnight on Monday 28 June 2021.

Also available on the review website are the review’s terms of reference, details of the advisory panel, and a lengthy report Cold Comfort and Home Truths – informing the review of jazz in England. 

Chris Hodgkins summarises the review’s objectives: ‘This review concerns the operation, management and business of jazz, and its purposes are twofold: one, to help the jazz constituency in England to understand and use its resources in the most efficient and effective ways; and two, to make the case for improving the support, sustainability and promotion of jazz in England.

The review will be undertaken in two phases. The first, entitled ‘Where are we now?’, examines the present state of jazz in England, drawing on revealing data from five key surveys aimed at the jazz constituency. The second asks the question: ‘Where do we want to be?’, and develops a succinct action plan for jazz in England that will go out for consultation to all interested parties, and the jazz constituency at large.’
The National Jazz Archive was founded by trumpeter Digby Fairweather in 1988 and is supported by Essex County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Heritage Lottery Fund logo
Copyright © 2021 National Jazz Archive, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp