New Earshot Jazz Archive at The Seattle Public Library a ‘Living History' of Vibrant Jazz Hub
release date: 06/24/2021
Seattle-area jazz researchers and fans have received a midyear gift. The Seattle Public Library and Earshot Jazz, the city’s preeminent jazz organization, have partnered to create a comprehensive digital collection of the entire Earshot Jazz magazine archives, from 1984 to present.
Any SPL.org website visitor can now browse, search and download articles from the collection, and no Library card is needed.
“Taken as a whole, the 37 years of Earshot’s monthly magazine is a living history of one of the most vibrant jazz hubs in America, and we’re thrilled to make it so widely available,” said John Gilbreath, executive director of Earshot Jazz. “We’re grateful to The Seattle Public Library for working with us to create this archive, and to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for funding this monumental project.”
With a mission to serve as "A Mirror and Focus for the Jazz Community," Earshot Jazz magazine began as a newsletter in December 1984, the same year the nonprofit Earshot Jazz organization was founded. The first issue featured an article on bassist Rufus Reid, several album reviews and an overview of funding for jazz artists. Since that time, the publication has published 421 issues and 9,000 pages of content, all of which are searchable and browsable in the collection, which is hand-indexed with over 21,000 terms.
National jazz and blues magazine DownBeat recently noted, “Earshot serves as a platform for the thriving Seattle scene.” Articles found in the archive range from news of Seattle’s cherished high school jazz programs to in-depth profiles of its established masters, and from previews of annual festivals to complete listings for small jazz clubs, coffee houses and book stores offering live jazz. They also chronicle the human stories about the successes and struggles of individual artists and community of contributors who make up this vibrant scene.
“This collection, which functions as a comprehensive digital history of Seattle’s modern jazz scene, extends the Library’s efforts to capture the rich history and influence of jazz in Seattle,” said John LaMont, a librarian with The Seattle Public Library’s Special Collections department. “This kind of partnership is a key component to making local Seattle magazines, newspapers and historical resources more accessible.”
The Library launched the Seattle Jazz Archive in 2017, which includes several oral histories of noted Seattle jazz musicians. The archive was celebrated at the time with programs including an exhibit titled "Rhythm in Colors," which highlighted Seattle's storied history with jazz as a historic Black art form that influenced the world and animated Seattle’s cultural landscape.
The Library has invested in a total of 41 digital collections that document the city's history, local culture and the arts, including the Black History and Culture Collection and the COVID-19 Community Collection. Digital collections include over 25,000 digitized items documenting local history.
The Earshot Jazz digital collection is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Jazz Ecosystem program that supports activities that broaden public access to jazz.
Earshot Jazz, founded in 1984 by Paul de Barros, Gary Bannister and Allen Youngblood, cultivates a vibrant jazz community by engaging audiences, celebrating artists and supporting arts education. Earshot Jazz continues to distribute a free, monthly, paper version of the magazine around the city. New issues will be added to the collection as they’re released.
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