1,000 Hours of Early Jazz Recordings Now Online: Archive Features Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington & Much More


Image from Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

David W. Niven spent his life amassing a vast record collection, all dedicated to the sounds of Early Jazz. As a kid during the 1920s, he started buying jazz records with money earned from his paper route. By World War II, Niven, now a college student, had thousands of LPs. "All the big names of jazz, along with lesser legends, were included," Niven later said, and "I found myself with a first class treasure of early jazz music." Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, and much, much more.

For the sake of his children, Niven started transferring his record collection to cassette tapes during the 1980s and prefacing them with audio commentaries that offer background information on each recording. In 2013, years after his death (1991), his collection of “Early Jazz Legends” made its way to the web, thanks to archivist Kevin J. Powers. If you head over to Archive.org, you can stream digitized versions of 650 cassette tapes, featuring over 1,000 hours of early jazz music. There's also scans of liner cards for each recording.

According to the archivist, this extraordinary collection "represents the very finest American music of the twentieth century, and because Mr. Niven took the time and care to record these commentaries, he has produced a library that is accessible to everyone from jazz aficionados to jazz novices."

via T-Mobile's Electronic Beats blog

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

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

Jean-Paul Sartre on How American Jazz Lets You Experience Existentialist Freedom & Transcendence

Jazz ‘Hot’: The Rare 1938 Short Film With Jazz Legend Django Reinhardt

by | Permalink | Comments (8) |

Comments (8)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Laura says:

    I’ve been a fan of Internet Archive for a long time. I checked your link, which is good, but am now finding out that all seems to be gone from their site! Off to see what the heck is going on.

  • Laura says:

    Ah, scheduled maintenance is all. :)

  • Jeff says:

    Big thanks to the efforts of your father

    Wondering if your archives include the live recordings on the radio stations of NBC Red Network and NBC Blue Network?

    Purpose of my question stems from my grandfather owning/managing prominent Chinese restaurants/American jazz clubs in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and New York with many of the performances broadcast live from artists such as Red Nichols and His Five Pennies (visit my link for more details)

    Look forward to hearing from you


  • Ken Eisner says:

    “By World War II, Niven, now a college student, had thousands of LPs.” No, he really didn’t. LPs didn’t come along until the 1950s. LP stands for Long Playing. He had was 78s, one song per side, maximum less than 4 minutes per side. That’s a pretty crucial error for a piece about this subject.

  • Fred Roberts says:

    I stumbled over that too. Author should change LPs to 78s or gramophone records.

  • Jai says:

    What a treasure! No Charles Mingus thou

  • Jerry C says:

    The hive memory grows confused. Connections coarsen.
    The good student is marginalised. It’s happening everywhere.Especially in the nostalgia shows. The folk process. Just like some jazz lyrics.

  • Steven Strauss says:

    Like the Spreckled trout of song.

Leave a Reply