The discographical primitives of the 30s – Delaunay, Rust and their kind – would be thunderstruck if they could return to see the holy grail of their trade as produced by the good Lord. In past years volumes of discography by others have always been confined by borders that they could not breach. Or the honest and usually solitary labourer declared himself terminally exhausted by the creation of his fat part-volume. Perhaps his efforts reached the middle of the alphabet before he then fell off a cliff with lots of promises for completion in the future – promises sadly usually subverted by the death of the compiler.
In 1992 Tom Lord knew what he was getting into, and in the next three decades reached his target of a world where inaccuracy, if it ever surfaces, is quickly suffocated, and his huge world of records is easily traversed in moments by anyone with a computer. Also, at Lord’s end, that computer gave him a universal span of access to knowledge that was previously unknown.
Tom Lord’s discographies began as books, but he moved ahead of his times and, to follow up the first inspired idea of everything on one disc, he had to take on full-time staff to keep apace of the daily updates of worldwide information. (Four and a half thousand new entries have been added since the last version appeared).
If you look up Armstrong, Basie, Ellington, Goodman or Kenton you are faced with a book-sized section for each. Huge landscapes also appear for Lyttelton or Reinhardt – you name it.
The gargantuan entries don’t stop with those worthies and there is probably the equivalent of 50 fair-sized volumes on the disc. The sheer magnitude of what’s there is monumental enough, but what can be done with it is phenomenal. Here’s a mere taste. If, for instance, you are interested in a particular musician, entering his name in a search box presents results you would never have thought of. Imagine, for instance, you were researching Charlie Parker and wondered if he’d ever recorded with Zoot Sims. Two clicks and you have him with Zoot in the Gene Roland big band of 3 April 1950 and in the Parker tentet of 17 October 1952. Full personnels are given for both, of course. There is a multitude of variations that you can discover as you become familiar with the disc. Thus what at first seems to be an expensive buy falls into place as an indispensable dimension of your collection.
The Jazz Discography by Tom Lord Version 20.0: CD-ROM, $350 (£270). Subscribers to previous CD versions can upgrade for $175 (£135).