Hard to believe, but it has been well over a quarter of a century since I started presenting jazz research on the Internet. As the years passed, two different sites have evolved and spun off from my original personal website (established in 1996). These two sites are: www.JazzDiscography.com (established in 2003), which presents discographies created with the BRIAN discographical database application; and Current Research in Jazz (established in 2009), an online open access journal that publishes scholarly articles by a variety of international authors. Over the course of this time also I co-wrote an award-winning biography of Gigi Gryce (now in its second edition), contributed to several other acclaimed books, and published liner notes, articles, and reviews.
My career at first was teaching instrumental music (including but not limited to jazz) at every level from elementary school through high school, college, and beyond. Performing, composing, transcribing, and arranging were ancillary activities. In 2006, I made a slight detour from the world of education into the world of academic libraries. This has allowed better alignment with my ongoing jazz research activities and has given me a new perspective on the preservation and dissemination of information.
I have a particular interest in the history of jazz research and scholarship. As described in my comprehensive master’s paper on jazz archives in the United States, these are areas that evolved outside of academia. Although universities have created jazz studies departments and offer degrees (I have two!), some of the best jazz research is still produced by passionate individuals who are laboring outside of credit-bearing coursework and grant-funded projects. Just as I believe that jazz archives can and should offer resources and services to more than just professional scholars, I believe that amateur researchers can produce resources of the highest quality, using common-sense scholarly rigor, clear communicative writing, and free from the influences of ivory tower politics and trendy academic theories and buzzwords. As a degree-holding professional working as a university faculty member, I have many academic colleagues, but I earned my jazz research credentials outside of academia, and I understand the mindset of the serious fan eager for discovery and comprehension. To both sides of the spectrum, I am able to bring my experiences as a performer, educator, conductor, composer, arranger, author, archivist, and librarian.
I am also very interested in how the Internet has changed the world of jazz research, something I have witnessed firsthand as an active participant. I can say it was essential in my establishing a position in the world of jazz in a number of ways. In addition to providing an outlet for my work, it helped me to find like-minded collaborators (including several who lived quite nearby). I have been able to maintain a high level of correspondence, a great deal of which would have gone unasked or unanswered via snail mail. Loren Schoenberg once told me that before the WWW, people did the same kind of research, but it all ended up scribbled on piles of yellow legal pads. Of course, some did manage to be published, whether in obscure newsletters or in independently printed books with limited distribution. I wonder how much more someone like Walter C. Allen, author of Hendersonia, could have accomplished with such a resource at his disposal. Over the years, there have been newsletters, fanzines, and other short-lived outlets, but the advent of the Internet has increased distribution beyond the wildest dreams of any mimeograph machine. I have seen jazz research on the Internet evolve from the pre-WWW days of email lists and Usenet newsgroups through the early websites (including my own) on to discussion boards and blogs, amid a growing commercial influx. I have longstanding regrets about how decentralized jazz on the Internet has become, and while I recognize there are some benefits to Facebook and other social media services, for a number of reasons I prefer to avoid these. On the other hand, the online expansion of jazz archives and other institutions has been a hugely positive development. We are finally seeing digital content in sufficient quantity that physical visits to archives are not always required. I am fortunate to work in this area and look forward to participating further as a contributor as well as an end user.
This website will house a good deal of material that started out on my original site, but does not fit either www.JazzDiscography.com or Current Research in Jazz. While some of it may be old, I believe it is still useful. If nothing else, it stands as documentation of history, at which sometimes the Internet fails miserably. I plan to add new content in a variety of forms, taking advantage of the bells and whistles that modern technology affords. I am exploring tools in the area of digital humanities that can present data (of which I have compiled a lot) in appealing and engaging ways. I will also include notifications and commentary regarding new (and even not-so-new) resources.
In some ways this website is a return to my jazz research roots, and in other ways, it is a new experiment. I hope that it will provide information of value, whether in my original research and writing or in the various external resources that I may point out. Friends both old and new are welcome to add comments or to drop me an email to share information and to help perpetuate and instigate collaborations.Continue Reading