Richard F. Wright Jazz Archive
The Richard F. Wright Jazz Archive at the University of Kansas is one of the most complete of its kind in the Midwest. Its holdings thoroughly cover all major jazz periods from the 1920's and 1930's on 78-rpm recordings (New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Kansas City, the swing era) as well as the many genres following WWII (bop, cool, funky/hard bop, third stream, free jazz, avant-garde, fusion and soul jazz).
The collection contains many rare and out-of-print items on labels that are in great demand by jazz collectors and dealers throughout the world. There are extensive holdings of Bethlehem, BYG, Coral, Debut, Dial, ESP-Disk, Jubiliee, Mode, Roost, Tampa, Time and United Artists. There are also nearly complete catalogs of such major jazz companies as Argo, Atlantic, Blue Note, Columbia, Contemporary, Fantasy, Impulse, Pacific Jazz, Prestige, RCA-Victor, Riverside, and Roulette. 12' V-discs and 16' (33-rpm) discs from the 1930's and early-1940's are in the Archive. Many of these items, particularly albums on the Intro, Good Time Jazz and Storyville labels, are extremely rare and have been out of print for many years. Included in the many items of interest to historians and collectors is the personal collection of orchestral leader and jazz promoter Loring Red Nichols, which includes master tapes and transcription discs of performances from the 30's, 40's and 50's.
The Archive is a collection of more than 15,000 12' 33-rpm recordings, 900 10' 33-rpm recordings, 5,000 78-rpm recordings, 650 reel tapes and thousands of books and periodicals; many of which are rare and unique to our collection. The Archive's largest contributors have been University of Kansas associate professor, radio host and jazz authority, Richard F. Dick Wright; Kansas City collectors, Howard D. Rittmaster, Rosalind Gregory, and Ernest Johnson Sr., Dallas enthusiasts Lloyd V. and Julia R. Mathis, as well as University of Kansas professor and jazz critic, Chuck Berg. Many other persons have contributed substantial numbers of rare and valuable recordings. Clippings, announcements, promotional materials and programs are among the many items that enhance the collection.
Almost every well known artist, as well as many unknown and forgotten players, is represented in the Archive, with over thirty or forty albums each by such outstanding figures as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Oscar Peterson. Future research may reveal that the complete recorded output of many jazz artists will be found here. Famous jazz figures associated with Kansas City (Charlie Parker, Mary Lou Williams, Coleman Hawkins) are well represented in the collection. 10' and 12' Charlie Parker releases on the Dial label and two by Dick and Kiz Harp for the 90th Floor label are examples of extremely rare recordings that can be found in the Archive.
As a member of the Associated Audio Archives/Association of Recorded Sound Collections, the KU Archives of Recorded Sound is the premier facility of its kind outside of the East and West Coasts. Librarians associated with the Archive, like Ellen Johnson, since retired, was a principal investigator for an NEH-funded study establishing guidelines for preservation, conservation and restoration of sound recordings in archives. Other investigators have represented the Association of Recorded Sound Collections, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library and the Syracuse, Stanford, and Yale University Libraries.
The AAA/ARSC has cataloged the pre-long playing records of these five libraries. This catalog is in the KU Archive of Recorded Sound. Preparations are underway to include KU's collection to this file in the future. There is an urgent need to provide complete bibliographical control through special funding so that the music can be made readily available in both an economic and efficient manner. When the cataloging of the collection is completed, the vast jazz archival holdings in the KU Archive of Recorded Sound (also home to the James Seaver Opera Archive) will prove to be one of the largest and most complete resources available in the country for serious research in the area of music history.
An on-line database, complete with personnel listings for every piece in the collection, is currently under construction. It is accessible on this web site and is updated regularly. Researchers are welcome to either browse or search for specific criteria (artists, titles, labels, instruments, donors, etc.). All titles in the database are available at the Archive for research, though none may leave the premises. Please keep in mind that, until the lengthy process of entering each individual title is completed, some will be missing from the database. If a specific title cannot be found on the database and is of special interest to you, you are welcome to contact an archivist as some titles simply have not yet been entered into the system. Also in an attempt to assist users who may be unfamiliar with the database, a help page complete with instructions and hints in every search category is available on the Archive home page.