Where can I download old jazz for my MP3 player?
August 12, 2007 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Where can I download early jazz songs? 1900-1930s? I've seen a site that has a number of them in RealAudio, but I'd prefer something I can easily load on my iPod. I am hoping that many of these are in The Public Domain. Still, I'd pay.
posted by tcv to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Here's an example of the type of jazz I'm talking about.
posted by tcv at 8:44 PM on August 12, 2007

The 78s collection at Archive.org has some jazz records.
posted by LarryC at 8:53 PM on August 12, 2007

If you don't mind the low bit rate compromises of streaming sites, you can employ one of the stream ripper applications. In the U.S., especially for jazz, the copyright owners have done a great job of keeping the copyrights alive. That's good for the estates of the musicians and publishers, and provides funding for re-issues, which I am all for, as it offers people interested in applying the latest digital technology to cleaning up old disc masters, and preserving old masters, tapes and recording session data, a reason to work.

But I think you'll be disappointed about the amount of "public domain" jazz of any historical or musical significance. As a fan of the music, supporting its replication and conversion is less painful, if you recognize the work involved, and the care that goes into jazz discography, more than in any other musical area.
posted by paulsc at 8:54 PM on August 12, 2007

Response by poster: I should have been more clear. I definitely don't mind paying and would gladly do so if that's the best chance of listening to this music more often!
posted by tcv at 8:59 PM on August 12, 2007

Although it is a bit beyond your original question, one strategy for significantly stretching your jazz re-issue dollar, is to haunt the used CD sites, looking for re-issues of significance. Keep a text file of artists/albums/labels/projects you find recommended on review sites, and of sidemen you find on albums/cuts you like. Refer to it, when purchasing new music. A text file of sidemen is especially important when your interest runs to older jazz, as many, many people played as both leaders and sidemen throughout their careers, early jazz not being the lucrative career field for musicians that other forms have been, since. Even band leaders of the stature of Teddy Wilson were routinely doing jobs as backers, arrangers, and sidemen for other acts, throughout their careers. So, if you dig into sidemen on cuts you like, you'll quickly build familiarity with players like Benny Carter, who was a terriffic talent on both alto sax, and trumpet, as well being a band leader, and a sideman, throughout his career, from the late 1920's to the 1990s.

In line with your original request for download sites, even if of pay nature, I've found that rhapsody.com has a pretty good library of older jazz, although I don't like their DRM locks. Although I don't usually recommend closed file trading networks, for some kinds of early European jazz, the private collections of people trading on those networks simply can't be replicated commercially. The best of those networks are brutal, however, if you don't have high quality files to share with others, and the whole concept of file sharing is problematic for people living in strong copyright jurisdictions. Perhaps those networks have merit for works not in the catalogs of other copyright holders, of which, there are many, such as live concert performances (bootlegs). Good luck getting invitations, and take heed that you can't just ask for invites to such networks, like you could for Gmail.
posted by paulsc at 9:42 PM on August 12, 2007

eMusic has some. I have a feeling you have to know what you're looking for or wade through some low-quality stuff to find the good stuff. But there's almost certainly some good stuff there. And it's pretty seamless with the iPod.
posted by doift at 6:44 AM on August 13, 2007

When you say "early jazz songs 1900-1930", what do you mean? Are you simply talking about American popular music in general, or are you specifically looking for the sound that you linked to? I ask because Jazz as we know it wasn't really recorded until 1917. It gained popularity from that point. (Of course there were precursors of jazz before, but still.)

Also, recording technology took a big leap in 1925 when eletrical recording processes became the standard. Before this time, sound recording was primarily a mechanical process, and the recordings sounded "weak". After this time, the recordings took on a clearer, brighter tone, as you can hear in the song you linked to.

Another consideration, as you mentioned, is copyright. Recordings made before 1925 are in the Public Domain, and you can do with them what you wish. (There's a strong argument that those who digitize and redistribute recordings from before 1925, such as on CDs, can create a derivative copyright on their redistributions, but that's far too complex a legal area for me to comment on -- I have no knowledge of law.)

What this amounts to is: recordings up until 1924 are in the Public Domain, but don't have particularly good sound quality. Jazz as we know it wasn't recorded until the late teens. The "hot jazz" like the song you like is mainly a feature of the mid- to late-1920s. (I love that music myself, so understand your desire to have more of it.)

As a previous commenter mentioned, the Internet Archive is a fantastic source for old music, but is really most useful if you know what you want. You may be able to figure out what you want by exploring the Red Hot Jazz Archive. I've never really found a good way to get this music on the internet, though. I purchase compact discs through Amazon. I have a decent-sized library of pre-1950s music (by which I mean a few dozen CDs), and hope to expand it as time goes on.

Great question!
posted by jdroth at 9:30 AM on August 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers.

To answer your question, jdroth, it's hard to really explain it because I don't know what "jazz" is. I know there are some happy sounding sounds like the Wa-Wa-Wa I linked to. I like the band sounds, the scratchy recording, a bit of all of it and I wanted to explore more of that style music. I had heard it was "jazz," but it didn't sound like the "jazz" I once heard at a New Orleans night club in the early 1990s. (That just had one guy with a trombone and a piano and it sounded very mellow compared.)

So, in short: I don't know what I'm talking about. It's like the old saying, "I don't know art, but I know what I like."

Or something
posted by tcv at 3:48 PM on August 13, 2007

Ah, I understand completely then. That's how I learned about this stuff. My guess is that you will like the dance bands of 1925-1930, maybe some of the big band sound of the 1930s (especially swing), and maybe even the modern Dixieland jazz sound.

Learning about this stuff is fun. I started about a decade ago after reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night". I wanted to know about the songs he kept referring to. I found a set of four 1920s CDs on sale cheap, bought them, and loved them. Now I have a growing collection.

A couple years ago (or was it just last year? It seems so long ago...), I posted a collection of twenty mp3s of great songs from 1900-1920 at my personal site. I think all of the links are still active. None of this is really jazz except for the Tiger Rag. The Marion Harris song is important, though, and very bluesy. The other songs are of a variety of styles. You might want to check them out...
posted by jdroth at 5:35 PM on August 13, 2007

tcv, judging from your example it sounds like Louis' Armstrongs complete Hot Five & Hot Seven recordings (released via www.disconforme.com eg) would be right up your street. You might want to boost that with a bit of Django Reinhardt playing with Stephane Grapelli...
posted by yoHighness at 3:26 PM on August 21, 2007

There's quite a bit of material available on Usenet ... I'm a constant lurker in the alt.binaries.sounds.78rpm-era group, for example, and have downloaded many gigabytes of pre-1940 popular music ... vocal and instrumental alike. As with all Usenet groups, the length of time a track remains available (its "retention") is variable .... with your ISP's policies largely determining just how long you'll get a shot at something. (Unless you ante up for a commercial Usenet service, which I'd highly recommend if you get the bug.) Nearly all 78s are encoded in MP3 (as opposed to the lossless codecs like FLAC or SHN, used more commonly by folks upping material that can profit from the higher bitrate) -- which means they'll transfer nicely to your iPod once downloaded.

Here's a look at what's available currently:

posted by jonking at 4:23 PM on January 3, 2008

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