Jazz on the Tube: An Archive of 2,000 Classic Jazz Videos (and Much More)

What is the current state of jazz, you ask? You might ask genre-bending musician/producer/rapper Stephen Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, who also happens to be the nephew of John and Alice Coltrane. In a recent interview, Ellison lamented “it’s all gone quite stale over the past 20 years” and imagined that if Miles Davis “came back to Earth and heard a lot of these jazz cats, he’d be mad. He’d literally be mad, and he’d just go back to where he was dead at.” Given Miles’ infamous temper and disdain for the conventional, this isn’t hard to imagine at all. But whether you could call today’s jazz “elevator music” is a point I leave to others to debate.




Ah, but what is the state of digital jazz preservation? Now, that is a question I can answer, at least in some small part, by pointing you toward Jazz on the Tube. This online resource bills itself as three wonderful things in one: “a searchable database of thousands of carefully hand picked and annotated jazz videos”; “free Video-of-the-Day service”; and “up-to-date directory of jazz clubs, jazz festivals, and jazz organizations world-wide.” You’ll also find there podcasts and worldwide listings of jazz radio stations. But as its title implies, its most fulsome service offers a list of 2,000 videos from an A-Z of several hundred artistsAbbey Lincoln to Zoot Sims.

Fancy some of that never-complacent Miles Davis magic? Check him out at the top doing “Sanctuary/Spanish Key” in 1970 at the Fillmore (opening for Santana—he also opened for Neil Young and the Grateful Dead that year). Dig some classic hard bop? Check out the Thelonious Monk Quartet in Poland, 1966. Like that N’Orleans’ sound? Do not miss Bunk Johnson below.

Whether it’s the avant-funk jazz stylings of contemporary trio Medeski, Martin & Wood or the trad big band swing of Cab Calloway you seek, at Jazz on the Tube, you will most surely find them. The breadth of artists, styles, and periods represented demonstrates the incredible range and adaptability of jazz. If it’s truly gone stale these days, I think we may anticipate that jazz will eventually find new forms its worthy ancestors approve of.

Perhaps you will fall in love with Jazz on the Tube. Perhaps you may find that it’s exactly what you need. If so, you should know that they also need you. Although their impressive archive of content is “all free to you,” it is not free for them to produce and maintain. They are currently asking help in the form of monthly memberships or one-time donations. Given the amount of curatorial work they’ve put into this digital jazz database, and how much enjoyment it’s likely to bring you, it seems only fair to give back to what they proudly describe as a “labor of love.”

Related Content:

The Greatest Jazz Films Ever Features Classic Performances by Miles, Dizzy, Bird, Billie & More

The Cry of Jazz: 1958’s Highly Controversial Film on Jazz & Race in America (With Music by Sun Ra)

1959: The Year that Changed Jazz

The Night When Miles Davis Opened for the Grateful Dead in 1970: Hear the Complete Recordings

Jazz Legend Jaco Pastorius Gives a 90 Minute Bass Lesson and Plays Live in Montreal (1982)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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  • Nick says:

    Great list. YouTube is such a fantastic repository of amazing jazz, especially from the time when jazz actually had a bit of life to it (upto about the late 60s, imo).

    As an aside, it was a post on OpenCulture from a few years ago featuring a Bill Evans set on Jazz625 that basically sparked my interest in jazz. Up until then I had a fair amount of disdain for the genre, but there was something about Evans’ tortured elegance that piqued my interest. Anyway, from there YouTube did the rest and now I’m hooked.

    Cheers.

  • Eric Bogan says:

    Great news. The idea that jazz today is ‘stagnent’ isn’t a view that I share and it reveals a fundemental misunderstanding of the genre. The comment above shows it had not gone ‘stale’ for this gentleman.

  • anon says:

    Having spent the better part of the last 25 years scouring the internet for all things “jazz video”, I can now say that we are in a better world because this free resource is available. Back when I was a music student in the early to mid 80’s, you had to be lucky enough to live in a large city where jazz film festivals, such one hosted by David Chartok in NYC would feature many of the historic examples we now take for granted. Now that we live in a time where the music industry at large is in a state of flux in terms of it’s intrinsic value, it’s nice to know that these films will hopefully remain accessible to the general public free of charge.

  • Melvin Williams says:

    No cost for membership was mentioned in fhe arricle

  • Anthony says:

    Really dig this website. A lot of great intellectual finds and the mention of Flying Lotus puts it to the top the of list. New reader here.

  • Rudy says:

    Hi There.I listen to a lot of jazz.I grew up on it.Was close to it.Met a lot of artist through my late uncle Duke Pearson.Who was a Blue Note recording artist and a@r man.But why is it.I never see any of his music on Jazz on the Tube.Everybody else pop up on the site.Why not him!

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