The Fillius Jazz Archive, a priceless oral-history collection at Hamilton College, is 25 years old this March. Under the guidance of saxophonist-educator Monk Rowe, the Clinton, New York-based archive has recorded and transcribed 380 interviews with a wide variety of well-known jazz artists.
“And we have 360 of the interviews available for anyone to see online at the YouTube channel ‘Fillius Jazz,’” Rowe said.
Among the YouTube interviewees no longer living are Harry “Sweets” Edison, Nat Hentoff, Ralph Sutton, Nancy Wilson, Clark Terry and Bob Wilber. Living subjects include New Orleans pianist Dave Torkanowsky and New York City singer Cat Russell.
“The mission of the archive has been to gather video interviews with renowned jazz personalities, saving their stories and experiences for researchers, authors and interested jazz lovers,” said Rowe.
The collection generally focuses on artists associated with mainstream jazz and the swing era. Former members of bands led by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, and the Dorsey brothers are well represented. Significant soloists and arrangers from small ensembles dating from the 1930s have also been interviewed.
“The holdings are particularly viable for material pertaining to the learning process employed by young jazz musicians prior to the establishment of jazz-education programs, and the realities of making a career in the jazz world,” Rowe added.
Other significant topics addressed include stories of life on the road and in the active New York City recording scene as well as racial relations in jazz. Interviews with Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Clark Terry, and Milt Hinton were conducted by vocalist Joe Williams, but now Rowe does most of the interviewing.
The entire collection has been fully transcribed and may be reviewed at the Fillius Jazz Archive in print, audiocassette, and DVD. Supporting material includes LPs, CDs, photographs, commercial jazz videos, books, and memorabilia as well as a concert documentary filmed in 1996 at Hamilton College featuring Joe Williams and the Count Basie Orchestra.
The archive was dedicated in 2013 in honor of Hamilton College alumnus Milton Fillius, Jr., and Nelma “Nikki” Nenneau Fillius, both dedicated jazz fans going back to the mid-1940s.
The interviews are available for viewing by Hamilton College visitors or via inter-library loan. For details, log on to hamilton.edu/jazzarchive. For archive information contact Monk Rowe at (315) 859-4071, or via email at [email protected].