- The Jazz Discography, Version 4.4, and: 85 Years of Recorded Jazz (1917-2002, A-Z Complete)
For information regarding the scope of this column, consult the headnote in the September 2004 issue (p. 194 of this volume). All Web sites were accessed 24 November 2004.
The recent release of two comprehensive discographies on CD-ROM covering all or most of the recorded history of jazz marks a watershed in music research. Despite some problems and controversies, they are essential for any school in which jazz research takes place.
The first complete comprehensive jazz discography on CD-ROM came from Tom Lord in 2002 (version 3.3), about a decade after he began publishing his print volumes. Version 4.4 is his first updated edition. Lord's Web site promises progressive updates for future versions. Bruyninckx began publishing discographies in the 1960s, lending his name a legendary iconic status. After four CD-ROM releases covering different sections of the alphabet, a fifth release (the first complete edition) was published by Bruyninckx and Truffandier (hereafter referred to as just Bruyninckx), and is the one reviewed here. A letter accompanying the Bruyninckx CD-ROM indicates that one final installment eliminating typographical and other errors and updating it to December 2006 is targeted for release in mid-2007.
Unlike record label and artist discographies (e.g., Cuscuna and Ruppli 2001, Sheridan 2001), which enjoy solid authoritative publications on reputable academic presses, comprehensive discographies (sometimes called "metadiscographies") have had to fend for themselves in the thankless world of do-it-yourself publications. Questions of accuracy, copying (less [End Page 833] charitably called plagiarism), and citation of sources plague them, perhaps an inevitable consequence of the colossal, tedious, labor-intensive task undertaken without the support of academic or government institutions. These CD-ROMs suffer from "problems that are straightforward issues of library and information science . . . [including] weak database design and search capabilities," according to Snyder (2004: 42), who has recently studied this phenomenon in his M.L.S. thesis, which I highly recommend. In short, academia has not embraced comprehensive discographies, nor have academic presses. Therefore, the usual rigorous standards of academia and peer review are not in place. Snyder hypothesized that,
given the growing status of jazz research within the academic community, and of jazz within the culture at large, reference database publishers may have an interest in publishing a jazz metadiscography, in the form of a subscription online database, marketed to academic institutions and independent researchers.(Snyder 2004: 33)
Surveys sent out to reference publishers were inconclusive, and Snyder suggested that chances of interesting commercial or academic publishers would be improved by three conditions:
The author . . . should be a reputable scholar . . . must use relational database software to compile discographical data . . . [and] should attempt to secure additional outside funding for research.(Snyder 2004: 60)
This combination is nowhere on the horizon, but librarians, scholars, and students cannot afford to wait.
Comparisons between Lord and Bruyninckx for accuracy (including consistency in spellings) and thoroughness are inconclusive. Kernfeld and Rye's (1995: 882-83) sample comparative checklist of the mid-1990s print versions of the two discographies shows Bruyninckx to be more comprehensive, but this comparison is now out of date. Brooks (2002: 263) found that Bruyninckx has "somewhat more information . . . more issues, more notations, more artists." (Bruyninckx's brief biographies of many of the major artists can be very helpful; Lord does not include any.) Brooks tested two earlier CD-ROM editions with five examples that relied on current jazz scholarship. Both failed all five examples (all of which came from before 1925, and were somewhat esoteric). Lord 4.4 continues to fail on four of the five points; Bruyninckx still fails on all five.
Discographer Michael Fitzgerald (personal communication) has identified thousands of mistakes in Lord 4.4, although many are...