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A Wide World of Music Is Always at Your Fingertips

August 31, 1997|Don Heckman | Don Heckman is The Times' jazz writer

Why in the world would anyone want to look into jazz on the World Wide Web? What possible connection could there be between the spontaneous unpredictability of jazz and the digital precision of cyberspace?

Actually, quite a bit. The Web is filled with fascinating stuff for jazz fans, from photos and sound bites to interactive chats with other jazzers and the latest information on your favorite performer. There is, in fact, enough about jazz, in all its manifestations to keep the most avid Web surfer online long past his or her bedtime. Here's a highly subjective breakout of some of the more engaging sites.

Jazz Central Station is the QE2 of jazz Web sites. A big, multilevel, colorfully laid-out destination, it is loaded with jazz information. The site's home page is visually laid out in the form of a train station, with loads of icons to take the viewer into different areas. Four train tracks, for example, lead to "Jazz Destinations," "Listening Car," "Record Company Cargo" and "Musicians' Express." There is also a "Jazz Cafe," a "Jazz Market," a "Newsstand," etc.

Although moving through Jazz Central Station can be a bit sluggish for those of us without ISDN lines or 56K modems (it is possible to revert to text mode for more rapid connections), there's no denying the appeal of the site's huge array of material. (

The Jazz Corner is a kind of micro-version of Jazz Central Station. Here, the home page visually simulates an urban corner, with icons for "Bop 'N Shop," "Speak Easy," "Recording Studio," etc. to reach, respectively, a marketplace, a chat area broken out by individual instruments, and links to the home pages of musicians ranging from T.S. Monk to Gary Bartz. (

InterJazz is a site that specializes in interactive chats with well-known jazz musicians, and live broadcasts from the Blue Note club in New York City. A recent broadcast featured the Count Basie Orchestra with Joe Williams, immediately followed by a live online chat with Williams. The site also connects the viewer with whatever software might be needed to participate. (

Jazz Online is record-oriented, with covers and information on most current releases. Sound bites, usually around 30 to 50 seconds in length, are available, playable through RealAudio Player. The site also includes some intriguing chats, and a regular feature--currently a Q&A with vibist Mike Mainieri. (

Culturekiosque is a European site covering various aspects of the arts on the Continent. It includes a jazz segment devoted to the writings of International Herald Tribute jazz columnist Mike Zwerin, one of the most astute and insightful of jazz commentators. (

Jazz photography surfaces in two Web sites dedicated to the work of Ray Avery and the late Bob Parent. The Jazz Photography of Ray Avery includes a wide array of photos of West Coast musicians, as well as numerous club and recording session shots of artists such as Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, June Christy and others. (

The Bob Parent Photo Archive, mostly dedicated to photos of musicians in action, includes intriguing shots of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, etc. (

Record companies are proliferating around the Web, with most of the major jazz labels in position with attractive sites, filled with full-color covers of new releases, biographical information and sound bits. Here's a list of some of the major players:

Blue Note Records: (; ECM Records: (; GRP Records: (; Telarc Records: (; Verve Records: (; Warner Bros. Jazz Space: (; Windham Hill: (

And, if all this isn't enough, one can turn to Contemporary List of Jazz Links, with a huge array of connections with jazz sites broken out into categories devoted to Artists, Education, 'Zines, Radio Stations, Labels and Festivals. (

When all else fails, there's always the search engine Yahoo, which, with the simple entry of the word "Jazz" will provide even more connections with the improvisational art on the World Wide Web. (http:/

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