If you have to ask what jazz is…

written by Europeana Music on January 30, 2018 in Content and Europeana Music with no comments

Art Blakey, drummer and leader of the Jazz Messenger, at the Umeå jazz festival in 1979. Riksantikvarieämbetet, CC BY

“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” So spoke the trumpeter Louis Armstrong, when asked to provide a definition. As the subject of jazz straddles the months of January and February in 2018 on Europeana Music, we take at look at the sounds, images and footage of jazz on Europeana, provided by so many cultural heritage institutions from across Europe and beyond.

To highlight the genre of jazz, there are a couple of galleries: first, a selection of portraits of the Jazz Greats, including Louis Armstrong, Art Blakey, Ella Fitzgerald and more; and secondly, a gallery of ephemera, showing the range of posters and some paintings which were inspired by jazz.

It’s worth noting that, as jazz is a relatively recent musical genre, much of the material is still in copyright. So, it’s really heartening to discover that there are so many jazz-related sound recordings, photographs which have been made accessible on Europeana.

There are also some excellent videos. For example, here’s a short clip of vibraphonist Gary Burton’s quartet from 1970. They start playing from 1’35” – it’s well worth the wait! And here you can see bassist Charles Mingus and his band perform “Better Git It In Your Soul” from 1962.

There are there are 59 entries for Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” alone on Europeana – one particularly wonderful version is sung by the basso profundo Paul Robeson.

We can’t provide a better definition of jazz than Louis Armstrong, but hope you have a chance to look at the amazingly diverse content that represents the genre on the Europeana pages.