All that Jazz
School of Music acquires 9,000 jazz records
KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 17, 2019) — The School of Music at Kennesaw State University is the beneficiary of a massive collection of jazz vinyl records, tipping the scales at more than three tons. The trove of 9,000 long-playing (LP) records represents more than 9,000 hours of jazz, ranging from small groups to big bands, as well as anthologies, compilations and box sets.
Sam Skelton, director of jazz studies in the College of the Arts, acquired the huge collection on Kennesaw State’s behalf from retired Florida engineer and part-time DJ Jack Simpson and his wife Lorraine. Since all of the LPs are vinyl, Skelton has invested in a record player that records them digitally, both in MP3 and uncompressed formats.
As a service project for the School of Music’s four instrumental music fraternities and sororities, students will be able to participate in digitizing and creating a database of the collection, as well as general maintenance. The digitization is crucial, as many of the albums are no longer available anywhere else.
Organized in alphabetical order by genre, the collection provides music lovers “an opportunity to hear uncompressed audio in an analog format,” Skelton said. Once catalogued, Skelton plans to let School of Music students and faculty check out duplicate copies of the albums or access the digital version in the format of their choosing.
The quest to acquire the vast collection began last year when Skelton learned of the records from Jack’s son, Jeff Simpson, a friend of Skelton’s and a fellow music educator at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic School in Sandy Springs. Jeff approached the KSU music professor on behalf of his dad, now 95, who wanted to secure a permanent home for the collection he had amassed over 50 years as a radio DJ.
Originally from England, Jack served in the Royal Air Force before relocating to the United States, inspired primarily by his love of American jazz. He worked on Florida’s Space Coast and would moonlight as a jazz DJ on the University of Central Florida’s weekly jazz radio show “Jazz on the Beach.” Reruns of the program are broadcast every Saturday on WUCF.
“Jazz from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s has staying power,” Skelton said. One of Skelton’s favorite albums, “She Was Too Good to Me” by Chet Baker, was pressed almost half a century ago in November of 1974.
Nearly all the LPs are still in their original sleeves. Although some sustained water damage over the years and are now in generic white sleeves, the Simpsons also donated photos of the original albums’ artwork and liner notes for easy reference.
The liner notes provide a unique educational purpose. Written by those not involved in the composing or recording process, the liner notes provide an academic perspective on the album and can lead to in-depth discussions of the record.
“There is a wealth of history on the back of every album cover,” said Skelton. “The greatest jazz historians of the time were often hired to write liner notes. Their perspective is often as valuable as the recording itself.”
The collection also affords an opportunity to absorb the albums in their entirety, giving students a feel for an artist’s vision or the vibe the artist was attempting to evoke through the whole album.
“Today’s music is digested in single tracks versus full albums,” said Skelton, making study of these LPs an immersive experience into the thought process of the artist.
– Lauren Richmond
Photos by David Caselli
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.