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Reviewed by:
  • Jazz Music Library
  • Sha Towers
Jazz Music Library. Alexander Street Press, LLC. (Accessed August 2010 to December 2010). [Requires a Web browser and an Internet connection, Microsoft Windows 98 or higher/Macintosh 10.0 or higher, sound card with speakers/headphones, and Adobe Flash Player 7 or higher. Subscription pricing ranges from $995 - $3,000, depending on number of simultaneous users. Consortial or package discounts may apply.]

Founded in May 2000, Alexander Street Press (hereafter ASP) began with the aim of publishing large, digital collections in the humanities and social sciences. The company entered the realm of streaming audio in November 2004 with the acquisition of Classical Music Library. In April 2009, ASP announced the release of Jazz Music Library (hereafter JML) with an initial offering of 18,000 tracks (representing 3,800 artists and licensed material from dozens of record labels). With this new service, ASP aspired to be the "largest and most comprehensive collection of streaming jazz available online" with coverage in "every jazz genre and time period."1 JML is available as a standalone subscription or through ASP's Music Online Listening Package, which offers aggregated access to all of ASP's streaming audio databases.2


As of September 2010, JML contained nearly 6,000 albums, totaling nearly 69,000 tracks. ASP staff notes that by the end of 2010, JML will include 100,000-120,000 tracks. The database currently includes 5,841 albums from 77 record labels. Initial reports indicated that JML included 5,888 albums for 109 record labels, though upon closer inspection it became clear that this estimate was in error, as the company's master list contained duplication of thirty-two labels.

Presently, recorded materials in JML span from the 1920s (four works) to the 1990s (3,776 works). In this context, the term "work" represents either an entire album or (in the case of albums containing material recorded in various years) one or more tracks. Though the total number of [End Page 800] works does not correspond neatly to other reported data (works will be greater than the total number of albums and less than the total number of tracks), the breakdown of works by recording date is useful for a more informed view of the database's coverage (see Figure 1). The majority of works in JML have recording dates from the 1950s and 1960s. Together these two decades account for 14,221 works. In comparison, the last quarter of the 20th century is represented by 9,195 works.

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Fig. 1.

Number of works in Jazz Music Library arranged by decade of recording date (as of 1 December 2010)

Though JML currently includes seventy-seven record labels, many of these offer only a few recordings. Nearly 20 percent of the labels include only a single recording. More than 50 percent of the labels include ten or fewer recordings. The four labels with the largest representation in JML—Universal Classics & Jazz (802), Verve (676), Blue Note (671), and Prestige (567)—make up 46 percent of the database. See Figure 2 for a breakdown of the number of albums available, by label.

Often labels with few recordings in JML suggest that a label does not have digital rights for everything produced on that label or that these rights have not been conveyed to ASP. In other cases, a non jazz-centric label may have released a small number of jazz albums or is a sub unit of a larger label with greater representation in JML.

Navigating JML

JML navigation and menu options are clearly displayed in the header of the site, providing easy access to information about JML, searching, browsing, and creating playlists (discussed below). The "Help" page (browsable and searchable) includes FAQs, technical support contact information, troubleshooting guides, and tips on using the database. Newly-added recordings appear on a separate tab, and users can sort results (by album title, performer, label, genre, or recording date), though with updates of nearly 1,000 albums at a time, the value of this tab may be questionable. The header also includes a link to JML's RSS feed for...