Traditional Jazz, 24/7, Free
Archive of Recorded Sound acquires
historic Riverwalk Jazz broadcasts.
BY TED GIOIA
Stanford’s Archive of Recorded Sound will take the biggest
step yet to broaden public access to its jazz holdings when it
starts continuous web streaming of more than 400 hours of historic radio broadcasts in January 2013.
The project is a partnership with jazz veteran Jim Cullum,
originator and co-host of Riverwalk Jazz, Public Radio International’s popular weekly radio show. Cullum has donated the program recordings to Stanford, already a growing powerhouse of
jazz archives. He and his band, who anchor the broadcasts, have a
history on campus: From 1994 to 2004, they were in residence
every summer at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and made recordings at Dinkelspiel Auditorium for the radio show.
“These are living performances of a whole genre of American
music,” comments University Librarian Michael Keller. “Jim’s
work is an amazing cultural
accomplishment that needs
to be preserved and shared
with the next generation.”
Cullum built a loyal fol-
lowing for his personal brand
of traditional jazz, especially
after his band moved to San
Antonio’s newly established
River Walk in 1963. His
father helped finance The
Landing, a basement con-
verted into a jazz club fac-
ing the waterfront—the first
establishment in the dis-
trict to offer patrons a view
of the San Antonio River.
“There was a restaurant at one end of the River Walk, and we
were at the other end—and that was it. There was no hotel, no
other businesses. But when The Landing opened, people were
lined up. It was the place to go.”
Almost from the start, Cullum paid close attention to new
technologies that could serve as a platform for his music. He
began broadcasting his band’s performances live over the FM
spectrum in the early 1960s, when AM still dominated the radio
industry. But Cullum’s biggest breakthrough came in 1989, when
he started promoting Riverwalk Jazz as a nationally syndicated
radio show—pushing ahead with ambitious growth plans at a time
when many jazz radio stations around the country were shutting
down or changing to other music formats.
Riverwalk Jazz ran counter to the trend, and enjoyed
unprecedented success. From a home base in San Antonio,
CULLUM AND CREW: The band was a
Stanford Jazz Workshop staple for a
decade and is now in its 24th year
producing public radio shows.
never known as a launching pad for
broadcasting careers, Cullum built
one of the most popular music shows
on the airwaves. The program, now in
its 24th year, is carried on 167 public
radio stations as well as Sirius’s Real
Jazz satellite channel. In addition,
each month more than 100,000 lis-
teners access streaming broadcasts from www.riverwalkjazz.
org. Add email, social media and mini-episodes designed for
cell phones, and you have America’s oldest jazz traditions bene-
fiting from all the latest technologies.
Cullum always envisioned Riverwalk Jazz not just as a vehicle
for his own music, but also as a celebration of all traditional jazz.
The broadcasts effectively combined entertainment with in-depth
historical surveys of the leading artists and themes of the pre-World War II jazz scene. Cullum proved to be the ideal person to
champion this body of work. “This is the only traditional jazz
group I know of that has the whole early history of the music in its
repertoire—over 2,000 pieces,” says Keller, who is also a musician
and jazz devotee. “It’s a phenomenal accomplishment. Jim Cullum has played this music all over the world, and shared it with a
larger audience through these broadcasts.”