David W Niven began collecting jazz records in 1925, when he was 10 years old. He continued to collect until 1991, amassing a nearly unparalleled collection of 78s and LPs, whose highlights he eventually transferred to cassette, boiling down 10,000 hours of music to 1,000 hours of tape with his spoken commentary, each cassette meticulously annotated with handwritten liner-notes.
Archivist Kevin J Powers oversaw the digital transfer of this amazing collection -- including the liner notes -- to the Internet Archive, where anyone can download or stream it, all 637 GB worth.
It appears, based on Mr. Niven's audio commentaries referencing certain artists still being alive at the time of the commentaries (for example, Buck Clayton, who passed away in 1991, is living, and Johnny Hodges' salary is compared to “1993 dollars”), that he put the tape compilation together during a period of time beginning somewhere in the mid to late 1980s and ending somewhere in the early 1990s. In my conversations with Mr. Niven, he has indicated that the materials in this selection of “Early Jazz Legends” only represents about 40-50% of what he once had in his jazz record collection. Other legends, such as Bennie Moten and many, many others, were in his collection did not make the “cut” for these tapes.
In order to create a complete copy of all of Mr. Niven's liner cards, I scanned each card at 400 dpi resolution. The JPEG images that resulted are as legible as the original liner cards. Until I or someone else type up all of the liner card listings, we have a complete copy of the cards.
Each card lists artist, tape number, years, and tunes. Below the tunes is a key to the numbers next to each tune, which indicate the source recordings. For example “1 Cottontail” and “1: RCA Victor LP In A Mellotone” indicates that the recording of “Cottontail” is from RCA Victor LP “In a Mellotone.”
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