It’s tough to be down on Downbeat. From the 1930’s until Jazz started to wane in the 1980’s years they were the definitive jazz music “organ”. It’s not been a good month for Downbeat in my eyes. My rose tinted glasses are cracked and fading. In this post I have some thoughts on their online archive, what they get right and wrong, plus a summary of my notes on former editor Dan Morgenstern.
On the upside, Downbeat awarded Creed its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 – So there’s that.
The Magazines Online
In March 2023 the World Radio History website received a takedown notice for the few copies of Downbeat magazine they had online. I have some 250 copies in a stack on the floor in my office, representing 1965-1976 that I’ve been scanning for a while. I’d planned to donate the scanned issues to World Radio History which is a major source for my research.
I plan to complete scanning them over the next few months. It’s clear though they won’t be online though. While I could probably afford to fight Maher Publications for a couple of rounds of court, it’s simply a waste of money, mine and theirs.
It’s not clear quite how the 1976 copyright act interprets the 1909 copyright act, but at best that would mean that anything older than 2x 28-years = 56-years, 2023-56 = 1967, older than that is out of copyright. Alternatively, anything older than 28-years that did did have it’s copyright renewed within the 28-years would also be out of copyright, meaning that anything older than 1995 is out of copyright.
Yes, Google Books has issues online, but “snippet view” just isn’t useful. It requires you to search in the issue, try to understand if the result is useful, and then go hunting on ebay, flea markets etc. for a copy of that issue.
C’est la vie. If you visit your local library, like I do, please check with them if they have microfiche/microfilm copies of any years of Downbeat in their archives, ask if they’d be willing to sell them? I am willing to buy either sheet or roll microfilm. Library works can be shared serially. Meaning provided only one copy is loaned out at a time, it can be. I’ll convert the magazines and donate to archive.org
Downbeat has some interesting historic articles online. Sadly their website doesn’t support embedding, so all I can do is to copy the headline/title and turn it into a link. However good these keynote major pieces might be, their value pales in comparison to all the reviews; the concert listings that told us where artists were and when; the label and management press release copy that adds color to the stories; the op-ed’s even when I don’t agree (see below); the adverts, pretty much everything in the magazine has historic value etc.
Much of that Downbeat has, but much of it is also covered elsewhere. Downbeat though has a unique perspective in that it has regular columns and features that chart, through the years, attitudes and musical and style, genre changes.
Downbeat themselves have a digital archive of pdf’s from 2008 all the way up to the 2023 issues. However, there is no search available by year, issue, or topic or keywords. The only way to search is to download them and use a pdf app that can search across pdfs and build an index.
It really is a shame Maher feel banning older issues, say from before year 2000, being scanned and indexed and available online is a good thing for them. If anyone from Downbeat or Maher publications reads this, I’ll happily sell you my scanned archive to put online at a budget price.
I had a look through their non-pdf archives and found these free articles, enjoy.
Randy Weston: ‘We Have To Go All the Way Back’
RANDY WESTON, MAX ROACH, CLASSIC INTERVIEW
By Ted Panken | Published August 2016
Randy Brecker: In Demand
RANDY BRECKER, CLASSIC INTERVIEW
By Jim Schaffer | Published January 31, 1974
The Downbeat archives can be accessed for free from their website https://downbeat.com/archives and the digital archive with pdf issues is here https://www.downbeat.com/digitaledition/archive.html
Dan was Downbeat’s editor during some of the the primary years I’m interested. He was the New York editor from 1964, and editor from 1967 until 1973. Dan went on to be director of Rutgers–Newark’s Institute of Jazz Studies from 1976. As a jazz writer, editor, archivist, and producer he’s surely done a lot for jazz.
I was disappointed though to hear his remarks on the Jazz and People’s Movement. Sure, maybe the panelists including Freddie Hubbard were not coached by legions of invisible social media specialists; sure it’s great to be hip and controversial but Dan Morgenstern declaring “music speaks most effectively when it does so on its own terms and not mixed with political rhetoric.” Library Of Congress & Library Of Congress. Music Division, S. B. (2016) Freedom Now: Jazz & the Civil Rights Movement. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, -04-21. [Video] Retrieved from … Continue reading. This implys that musicians should stay in their lane and just keep musicing. That really is disappointing given it was about a African American jazz musicians protest.
Rather than use his considerable knowledge and skills to help them be more effective, he merely picked apart anecdotes about Coleman Hawkins, and other things said and wrote a 3-page precis of what they’d done wrong. He also seemed to be offended that the panel, given what was likely their only opportunity on late night TV to talk, talked about themselves, understandably. None were, or claimed to be orators in the mold of Dr King, or Malcom-X. Maybe the 30-minute segment was a train-wreck, sadly we don’t have the ability to watch it
|↑3||Library Of Congress & Library Of Congress. Music Division, S. B. (2016) Freedom Now: Jazz & the Civil Rights Movement. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, -04-21. [Video] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2021690135/|