The collections of the National Jazz Archive are comprehensive and ever-expanding, and provide a unique resource for jazz researchers and enthusiasts.
Our on-going objectives for these collections include cataloguing and conserving, and to increase free accessibility through digitisation. We are grateful to Heritage Lottery Funding for its important contribution to this.
Many photographs, journals, posters and programmes are now freely available to view on our website. You can also search our complete catalogue, including books and other items that cannot be accessed on line.
We're here to help
Many of our holdings have not yet been catalogued, or digitised, so a visit to the Archive, or contact by email or telephone, may be the best way to find what you are looking for.
Our volunteers are always on hand to help
We are always pleased to help visitors explore the Archive and to answer questions about jazz and our collections. If you are planning to visit the Archive at Loughton in Essex, or our satellite collection at Birmingham City University, then we suggest you contact us by phone or email first to confirm the arrangements and our availability.
We will also be able to advise you regarding the location of any material in which you are interested.
We are often asked about jazz music recordings. This is not within the remit of the National Jazz Archive, but recordings can be found within the British Library's world-famous collection of commercial disks, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings.
Please note that the materials in the Archive are available for reference only. You are welcome to read or examine any item that we hold, but these may not be taken out of the Archive.
The Archive holds many thousands of photos taken by musicians, professional photographers and enthusiasts, of musicians performing in clubs, festivals and concerts, and offstage.
Our photographic collections include those taken by Brian Foskett, Brian O'Connor, George Webb, Dennis Williams and others. We also have online copies of photographs by the influential John 'Hoppy' Hopkins, taken during the 1960s counter-culture revolution.
Several hundred photographs were scanned and digitised as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund project The Story of British Jazz, and can be viewed in our photograph collections.
We also continue to catalogue and scan new collections that we have received since the end of the project.
Louis Armstrong relaxing backstage at the Finsbury Park Astoria, London, in 1962
Photograph by Brian Foskett
We have more than 4,000 books on jazz and related subjects, which are available for reference in the Archive. These include: biographies and autobiographies; reference books; discographies; critical works, reviews and histories; and record guides.
We aim to acquire all new books on jazz and blues that are published in the UK, and we are very grateful to the many authors and publishers who donate copies of their new titles to us.
Come and look through our range of over 4,000 books
Journals, magazines and newsletters
The Archive's journal collection is of international importance, and is of particular value to researchers.
We hold full or partial runs of more than 800 journals, magazines and newsletters on jazz, blues and related music. We have all the key English language journals, such as Melody Maker, Downbeat, Jazz Journal, Blues Unlimited, Blues World, JazzWise and Crescendo.
We also have a huge range of rare newsletters and specialist magazines stored at the Archive in Loughton. Copies of many foreign language journals are also available to view at the archive maintained by our partner Birmingham City University.
Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund grant that we received in 2011, we have scanned and digitised 30 sets of journals and magazines, most of which are fully accessible on this website in both fully searchable pdf and OCR-text format.
These journals include long-running titles such as Jazz News, Crescendo, Jazz UK and Storyville, and also rare, short-lived titles such as Swing Music (1935–6) and Jazz Illustrated (1949–50). Other titles can be accessed in printed form or online in the Archive.
Concert programmes and posters
Programmes and posters are evocative records of events and performances, reflecting as they do the designs and fashions of the period.
Many of the copies in the Archive were donated by jazz enthusiasts who saved them at the time they attended the event.
Programmes for hundreds of concerts and festivals are held in the Archive. Some of the most interesting have been scanned and digitised and can be viewed online within the programmes collection.
Programme cover from the Jazz at the Philharmonic UK tour in 1959
Personal papers and letters
The Archive holds collections of personal papers from many musicians, bandleaders, writers, journalists, broadcasters, club and festival organisers. These are enormously varied, and include photographs, personal papers, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, cashbooks, family history documents, publicity material, brochures, cuttings, contracts, scripts and press releases.
The papers vary greatly in extent, from a series of letters between artist and illustrator James Hall Thomson and American clarinettist Pee Wee Russell, up to the vast collected papers of Charles Fox, who wrote and broadcast about jazz for more than 50 years.
We also have extensive material donated by composer, pianist and bandleader Mike Westbrook, who is also one of our Patrons. These are stored at the archive of our partner Birmingham City University, along with the papers of Charles Fox.
Recording oral history provides the opportunity to preserve colourful and personal accounts, which fill the gaps in providing evidence for researchers. In the National Jazz Archive we have a rich collection of different oral accounts related to jazz, its artists and those who enjoy its music.
Our oral histories are divided between three distinct collections: Interviews; Jazz in Essex; and the Intergenerational Jazz project.
- Our Interviews collection provides more than 600 interviews and profiles of jazz artists from the UK and those visiting from overseas. This includes nearly 200 interviews by the British jazz journalist Les Tomkins and provides a fascinating insight to many of the well known jazz artists.
- Jazz in Essex is a collection of interviews with jazz artists, or those running venues in the Essex county of the UK.
- The Intergenerational Jazz Reminiscence project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, explores the investments that different generations make in promoting, performing, supporting and documenting our jazz heritage. Interviews and reminiscences have been recorded for posterity and are available for a range of people associated with jazz in the UK.
All oral histories are available online via the explore pages either by listening to the recorded audio or by reading the transcripts.
Listen to our many recorded interviews
Visit or contact us
If you want to plan a visit or talk to us to learn more about our collection, please contact the Archive. We look forward to welcoming you to the Archive and helping you with your research.