SFJAZZ holds over 2,000 recordings of jazz, world, folk, and roots artists, dating back to when the organization was called Jazz In the City (1983-1991) and the San Francisco Jazz Festival (1992-2012). The nominated contents are selections from earlier years of this historic collection, which include live concerts, panel discussions, and interviews.
In line with the foundational visions of Jazz in the City, the recordings include numerous varieties and derivatives of jazz, played by artists of equally diverse backgrounds such as tap dance, bebop, vocal jazz, avant-garde, salsa, taiko, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and many more. One notable example is the collaboration between Jazz in the City and the Asian American Jazz Festival in 1984, featuring Bay Area Asian American jazz artists. One program focuses on the contributions of Filipino jazz musicians from the 1930s through the 50s and onward, centered on Stockton, California, which until recently hosted the largest Filipino population in the United States.
Many recordings are uniquely commissioned pieces, world premieres, and other one-time events, including Anthony Braxton's premiere for the "Sacred Space" series in 1986, and Don Cherry with Nana Vasconcelos and Peter Apfelbaum performing "A Mass for All Religions" at the Grace Cathedral in 1986. Music was often matched to specific venues, and many of the recordings capture a unique sense of space and locality as it relates to its musical tradition and spirit. In 1990, the "Concert of Sacred Music" featured the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, performing Ellington's "Concert of Sacred Music" at Grace Cathedral where it premiered 25 years earlier when the cathedral first opened.
There are also recordings of panel discussions featuring prominent Bay Area musicians, journalists, music writers, academics, and historians. "Jazz Dialogue: The State of Bay Area Jazz" from 1996 features Eddie Marshall, Orrin Keepnews, Derek Richardson, and others in discussion about the local jazz scene from all angles, from its local presence to its worldwide influence. The "Jazz and Race Panel" in 2001 featured Bay Area-based historians and academics Dr. Harry Edwards, Dr. Angela Davis, and Nat Hentoff, discussing racial considerations in jazz, the treatment of the topic of race in jazz history over a three-day panel. Other interviews and talks include Orrin Keepnews in "The Life and Music of Thelonius Monk," Charlie Haden presenting "The Life & Times of Don Cherry," John Santos on "The Sounds of Puerto Rico," and others. The collection also features youth in jazz, including the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble and the Menlo-Atherton High School Jazz Ensemble.
All of these events were recorded in venues in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, California, including some that have closed, adding to the historical importance of these recordings. Venues include the Victoria Theatre, Herbst Theatre, Bimbo's 365 Club, Grace Cathedral, Davie's Symphony Hall, Great American Music Hall, S.S. City of San Francisco Pier 33, Masonic Auditorium, Green Room at the Veteran's Building, and the Koncepts Cultural Gallery in Oakland, which carries its own unique history of presenting jazz in the East Bay.
Scholars, educators, musicians, and researchers from multiple institutions have reviewed the collection and found recordings that would be of great interest for the history of jazz and related music. Robin D.G. Kelley, PhD, a founding member of UCLA’s Global Jazz Studies Program and former faculty in Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies, wrote that “In terms of historical value and importance, few projects match that of SFJAZZ’s... Scholars, researchers, and music students across the United States and around the world would greatly benefit by making these rare materials available.” SFJAZZ’s collection would be useful locally, nationally, and internationally for music students, critics, historians, and scholars.