Our collection of over 300 interviews with jazz musicians, arrangers, writers and critics, the jazz greats and the supporting cast from the 1930’s to the present, is now available online and free to the public courtesy of the Hamilton College Jazz Archive. Listeners can click on a link and read the transcripts or listen to interviews with some of the jazz world’s most well-known musicians, including Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing as well as former members of bands led by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton and the Dorsey Brothers. Interviews are searchable by subject and name. Selected video excerpts may also be viewed at the archive website.
The collection focuses primarily on artists associated with mainstream jazz and the swing era. The interviews, which range from 30 to 120 minutes, reveal the learning processes employed by musicians prior to the establishment of jazz education programs, and the realities of making a career in the jazz world. Those interviewed discuss stories of life on the road and in the New York City recording scene, as well as race relations past and present, in the jazz world and beyond. Anecdotes are woven throughout the interviews In addition to jazz lore, there is a wealth of material illuminating American society in the twentieth century. Stories about the depression, World War II, spirituality and commitment to the art form abound — all first-hand accounts.
The Jazz Archive was established by jazz enthusiast and Hamilton alumnus Milt Fillius Jr. ’44 who recognized the urgent need to document the life stories of notable jazz figures. It is physically located on the Hamilton College campus in Clinton, New York.
Interviews with Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Clark Terry and Milt Hinton were conducted by jazz vocalist Joe Williams, who was instrumental in establishing the reputation of this oral history project. Approximately one-third of those interviewed are now deceased.
The interview transcripts and audio recordings are online as part of the Hamilton College Library Digital Collection which is comprised of several other notable holdings including those related to the Civil War and to communal societies.
Hamilton College is one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges. It is independent, highly selective, coeducational and residential. Originally founded in 1793 as the Hamilton-Oneida Academy, Hamilton is now comprised of approximately 1,800 diverse and talented students from nearly all 50 states and approximately 40 countries. More information on the college can be found here.