Woody Allen, Robert Crumb, and Harvey Pekar, the most famous collectors and proponents of pre-1930 jazz, are probably the last people you’d ever expect to surf the Internet. But, if they did (or do), the “Red Hot Jazz Archives” site would be their primary destination.
Like Crumb, Pekar, and Woody, this music genre is my personal favorite because it is the modern nexus of American music. As a kid, I picked up the love for this music by watching those surreal early thirties Fleischer Brothers “Betty Boop” cartoons, especially those that included stellar musical performances by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, and Cab Calloway.
When I first discovered this superb website created by Scott Alexander in the mid-nineties, I thought that I had struck a rich vein of gold. The Red Hot Jazz Archive is truly a treasure trove of RealAudio sound files from almost every band and artist that ever recorded from 1895 post-ragtime music to early thirties pre-swing jazz masterpieces. And the collection of music on this site is continually expanding thanks to Alexander and other dedicated fans. There are literally days and days worth of music to hear at the Red Hot Jazz Archives.
Besides sound files, the site offers a complete music education complete with well-written essays, band and artist biographies, vintage photographs, and a bibliography of books devoted to early jazz. Through my years of visiting this site, I’ve learned about jazz geniuses that I had never heard of, including Luis Russell, Henry Red Allen, Harry Reser, Joe Sanders, Frankie Trumbauer, Eddie Condon, and Alfonso Trent among others.
Note that the sound files on the site are streamed, but not downloaded. While it may seem unfair the relatives of these artists aren’t getting paid because most of the selections are public domain, the good news is that, without a site like the Red Hot Jazz Archive, most of these artists who would be lost forever in obscurity are once again seeing the light of day for a whole new generation.
Scott Alexander’s copyright disclaimer begins as follows: “Many people have asked if the Red Hot Jazz Archive is legal? The answer appears to be yes, but several experts have said that it falls into a gray area of law, concerning the transmission of the temporary RealAudio files and if that constitutes copying and distributing of the records. I see the Archive as a radio station of sorts, and that I am just broadcasting these works, not distributing them.”
The Red Hot Jazz Archive also sponsors a very active Yahoo group.
“Red Hot Jazz – a review”, Burton Peretti, History Matters, URL: (http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/292)