Parker Burwell Toop credit Jak Kilby

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A Jazz Archive

I went off today to visit the Loughton Jazz Archive, in order to expedite some initial research on Barry Guy, whose biography I am about to begin. Loughton itself is near the end of the Central Line, a comfortably affluent satellite town in Essex. This archive, which is a national resource, is housed within Loughton Library, one which, predictably enough, seems to have been suffering from the now-disgraced Tory ideology of ‘austerity’, i.e. squeezing the public sector till “the pips squeak” (to use an expression that, decades ago, was used in an entirely different context).

But the Loughton Jazz Archive survives, and I heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in the form. Several thousand hard copies, many more encrypted onto discs, of jazz magazines and ephemera across the years since 1917 (or thereabouts). I have used the Archive during the writing of both my books and used it again today in my initial scavenging for Guy memorabilia. The genial chief achivist himself, David Nathan, had very kindly forearmed me with a list of Guy articles, across several publications, Wire, Coda, Cadence, Melody Maker, Down Beat, and I turned up, to be presented with access to all the relevant articles, some dating back 50 years or so. A fantastic service, and for merely the price of a few photocopies. Thank you, David.

The Archive is staffed by volunteers, seemingly, a typical sign of this age, which seems to expect skilled operatives of a certain age to offer their time and effort for ‘intrinsic’ rewards, rather than anything more ‘common’, such as money. If you are attempting to study the subject of jazz, or are trying to write something about this music, or are even just interested in the music, then I highly recommend this fantastic endeavour. You will learn a lot from just one visit. It is such a joy to be able to immerse oneself in a room which is totally dedicated to jazz, and in which one can get cheerful and good-humoured assistance in one’s studies. Check it out.

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Banner and book cover photo credit: Jak Kilby