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Jazz Oral History Project

This audio collection consists of 120 oral histories of seminal pre-Swing Era and Swing Era jazz musicians recorded between 1972 and 1983. The JOHP was initiated in 1972 by the Jazz Advisory Panel of the Music Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. Musicians sixty years and older (as well as several younger artists in poor health) were interviewed in depth about their lives and careers. The taped interviews range in length from 5 to 35 hours each and are accompanied by typewritten transcripts. They have been consulted by hundreds of scholars and writers producing articles, books and dissertations, in addition to frequent use by producers of radio and television.

The project was initially administered by the New York - based non-profit service organization Jazz Interactions, and then by the Smithsonian's newly-established jazz program. Administration and archiving of JOHP was turned over to the Institute of Jazz Studies in 1979. The Institute conducted further interviews as well as editing and correcting transcripts of prior interviews.

Included in the Jazz Oral History Project are such luminaries as Roy Eldridge, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams and Charles Mingus, but also many significant if lesser-known figures who shed light on important aspects of jazz history and American culture. The stories and voices of many of these artists, who offer unique insights into the music and careers of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and other key jazz creators, are undocumented anywhere else.

The condition of the original reel-to-reel and cassette tapes and some of the service copies had deteriorated to the point where the Institute could no longer offer access to large parts of the collection. With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the audio for all 120 interviews have now been preserved in digital format.

The Institute of Jazz Studies has made a curated selection of the most requested interviews accessible. More interviews will come online as they are available. The current list of interviews offered include:

  • Interviewee Name
  • Interviewer Name
  • Instruments Name