KCSM Jazz 91 Music Library

staff | August 21st, 2017

Article By:
Jesse “Chuy” Varela, Director of Music and On Air Announcer

Digitizing Volunteer Alexis S.

Digitizing Volunteer: Alexis S.

It’s been a hundred years since the very first jazz record was made by The Original Dixieland Jazz Band of New Orleans, LA. The “Livery Stable Blues” was recorded in early April of 1917 for the Victor Talking Machine Company and became an instant hit! It helped usher in the Jazz Age and establish this African American derived musical artform as a vibrant style of American popular music.

Today jazz recordings are appreciated all around the world and every day someone is hearing the voice of Billie Holiday, or the trumpet of Louis Armstrong, for the very first time. For us at Jazz 91, we believe in, “Edu-Tain-Ment,” where an incredible cast of broadcasters entertain and teach you about the history, people, places and styles that make up this music.

To help our programmers to that end, we have the resource of the Jazz 91 library. Considered one of the largest jazz radio libraries in the United States, the collection is curated and maintained by me, Jesse “Chuy” Varela, Music Director at Jazz 91. I have been blessed to work as an archivist with the Smithsonian Institute, Oakland Museum, Arhoolie Foundation and others and find that what we have in the Jazz 91 library is a sonic reflection of the greats, and unsung, jazz artists of the San Francisco Bay Area and the West Coast.

The collection consists of Compact Discs, Vinyl LPs, 78 rpm discs, Reel-to-Reel tapes and Digitized Tracks. It is an active library used by programmers who play from source material. This distinguishes Jazz 91 from repositories like the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institute, Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound, and others, who largely store recordings for archival preservation and research.

The categories of the Jazz 91 library include: Instrumentals, Vocals, Blues, Latin, Avant Garde, Holiday, Swing, Pop, and a special collection of Russian and Eastern European jazz. We also house an archive of programs by renown jazz broadcasters like Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins, Richard Hadlock, Marian McPartland and numerous NPR programs. It is a plethora of surprises for the jazz lover!

In recent years our most ambitious project has been the digitizing of our LP library. Thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers we are converting countless long out-of-print albums into digital format for renewed circulation over our airwaves and streams. Credit needs to be given to Jazz 91 Production Director, Chris Cortez, who handles the volunteers and teaches them the tech necessary to do the job, and our tireless engineer, Chris Phillips, who maintains our digital hardware.

Right now, the Jazz 91 library continues to grow thanks to a never-ending stream of new releases. But how we get our audio today is very different from the days of early jazz. Record labels are now beginning to service radio with downloadable tracks instead physical product. Vinyl is back and we are starting to receive a few new releases on LP. We are also starting to run out of room but we’ll make room for great jazz!

We don’t have every jazz recording ever made in the Jazz 91 library but what we have, we are proud to say, is quality without comprise!

13 Responses to “KCSM Jazz 91 Music Library”

  1. John Swartley says:

    Jesse — Thanks for the Sunday show and all of your work at KCSM. I’ve got some vinyl at home that I’d be willing to lend and/or donate for your LP digitizing project. If you are interested, I could provide you a list of albums to see if there are any you are interested in. If you are swimming in LPs waiting to be copied, I understand. In any case, the offer stands indefinitely. Thanks. — John Swartley

  2. Kurt Nystrom says:


    Thanks for this newsletter and your article about vinyl records.
    Are you interested in donations from owners of vinyl jazz recordings?
    I would certainly consider doing that.
    Let me know and thanks for all you guys do for the Bay Area.

    Kurt Nystrom

  3. D.Michael Griffin says:

    Are you needing any more volunteers to assist w/ digitizing project, or are you sufficiently staffed now?

    • staff says:

      Like many who volunteer, they do so as long as it fits into their schedules, so our needs are always changing. You can contact Chris Cortez (chris@kcsm.net) who works with the digitizing volunteers and let him know you are interested. Thanks for asking.

  4. Larry Jones says:

    I’ve been digitizing my own LP collection. I’d be happy to discuss how we might collaborate.

  5. Gerry says:

    Digitizing vinyl, are you crazy? Hope the heck you aren’t throwing out the records.

    I have a lot of vinyl and it is so superior. I hate digital. No warmth, no harmonics. I’m so glad they are releasing old stuff on vinyl again. It isn’t cheap, $40.00 or so a piece but it’s wonderful to hear that music again as it was meant to be.

  6. Nice to see “my” digitizing lab getting some props.
    Big kudos to Chuy and Chris and Chris for making it all happen.
    It’s just the best Friday afternoon a body could have!

  7. Jeffrey Schwalm says:

    Hi Chuy,

    Thank you also for all your efforts to make KCSM a Jazz Jewel. I too have many many Jazz LPs. I live in the Bay Area and can make them available to you. I love them, but would be happy if more people could loved them too.


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