Jazz Institute of Chicago

The JAZZ Discography

The JAZZ Discography
compiled by Tom Lord

Version 3.3 A to Z CD-ROM
available from www.lordisco.com
$277 purchased through the website
$297 by mail, email, fax or phone—604 926-9953

Reviewed by Paul Baker

What do you get for the jazz aficionado who has everything? This comprehensive discography CD-ROM, advertised as "100 years of jazz recordings on one CD-ROM," is worth consideration. The CD-ROM compiles information contained in 26 printed volumes totaling about 15,500 pages, which were published over the past decade.

Installation took a couple of minutes on my PC running XP (also works on Mac OS-9 and OS-X only). The program requires 30 mb of disk space. You may copy all the 400 mb of data files to your computer to improve performance, however, I found the speed to be acceptable with the smaller installation.

Searches can be by leader, session, musician, and tune, or "multi-search" combinations of up to three musicians and up to three tunes. Buttons to access most search parameters are always available at the top of the screen.
Charles Walton talks about Oliver Coleman in his Cadenza column this month, so I searched for Coleman. Results were returned very quickly, showing that he recorded with Earl Hines, Horace Henderson, Dinah Washington, Dorothy Donegan, Eddie South, Eddie Johnson, and Al Smith. I found the Cornshucks recordings that Walton talks about, however, most personnel were listed as "unknown."

Searching for Oliver Coleman.
Two buttons on the top right allow most results to be sorted alphabetically or chronologically.

Coleman search results, sorted chronologically.
Next I searched for Sonny Seals, also mentioned in Walton's Cadenza. I found that he recorded with Malachi Thompson (most recent 1998), Ben Sidran, Les Hooper, Cleveland Eaton, Eldee Young, Ramsey Lewis, Charles Earland, and Bill Porter.

My search for trumpeter Don Fagerquist yielded 314 entries, only two with him as a leader. A very basic bio would be a nice addition—born, died, where born, etc.

Next I searched for a tune, "Serenade for a Cuckoo." The original Roland Kirk recording from 1964 (and three later Kirk recordings) were returned, and sessions by (Chicagoan) Eldee Young, Ray Price, Vibration Society, Jessica Williams, and Dwight Dickerson. The latest was from 1992. This is a quick way for arrangers or musicians to track down versions of tunes they are interested in.

Searching for Chicago pianist King Fleming found 13 listings, seven with him as a leader and six as sideman or arranger (including "Sounds of Christmas" by Ramsey Lewis). However, none of his Southport CDs from the last few years are listed.

William "Bugs" Cochran is shown playing drums on many Fleming recordings. Clicking on his name revealed eight recordings with Sun Ra. This tool would be useful for people planning jazz festival "reunion" bands.

Searching for our own Charles Walton revealed recordings with Earl Bostic, Johnny Pate, Audrey Morris, Robert Clary, and Von Freeman (recorded in Holland).

Search for Stan Getz and Stella by Starlight.

A "multi-search" for musician Stan Getz and the tune Stella by Starlight yielded six recordings between 1952 and 1987. Searching for Charlie Parker and Dodo Marmarosa found three sessions from the late '40s.

A search for my old Detroit saxophone teacher, Lamonte Hamilton, yielded a 1982 session with Pancho Hagood at the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival. A search for another Detroiter Marcus Belgrave (Lamonte played in his quintet for many years) yielded sessions with Ray Charles (many), David "Fathead" Newman, Betty Blake, Charles Mingus, and many others. These results included some obscure Tribe recordings from the early 1970s that were collaborations with Wendell Harrison and Phil Ranelin.

Although the user interface is functional, it could be smoother and more user friendly. Since so many people are familiar with surfing the Web, presenting the product in a more browser-like setting might improve usability. Perhaps links should be underlined, the "page down" key should move a page at a time instead of an entry at a time, and a mouse scrolling wheel should work. Back and previous buttons do different things; most people would expect them to be the same. The scroll bar does not operate as expected.

I also would have liked to have other sorting options after I get search results—right now alphabetical and chronological are the only options, and these sort and present the entire list, which can be daunting. A search for Charlie Parker returns so many listings that secondary searches from the results screen would be helpful—maybe by date ranges, labels, small groups, foreign/US, city in which recording was made, most/least frequently recorded tunes, etc. Explicit arranger and label searches (scheduled for a future release) would be useful.

If it's within your price range, should The JAZZ Discography be on your holiday gift list? I think so. The amount of work that has gone into this CD-ROM, cataloging 136,263 sessions, is staggering—invaluable to the musician, arranger, DJ, jazz program planner, or serious fan. We plan to use it for researching stories on this website.

I expect that 50 years from now jazz fans will have access to this type of research tool on the Web. After searching, they will be able to listen to the tunes and musicians they find with the click of a mouse.

Copyright ©2003. All rights reserved.

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