The John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive at SDSU



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Home >> Special Collections & University Archives >> New Notable >> The John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive at SDSU
Bram Dijkstra with his recorded sound collection. Photo by Sandy Dijkstra.

Special Collections in the SDSU Library will receive a priceless collection of nearly 50,000 vinyl albums and other recordings with The John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive, staggering in its depth and breadth, as well as its rarity and quality.

A future gift from Abraham (Bram) Dijkstra, Professor Emeritus of Literature and Culture at UCSD who spent 65 years curating the collection, it will provide new opportunities for teaching, learning, scholarship, and community engagement around music and diverse cultural communities in the United States. The collection documents the impact of jazz and African American music on global music, culture, and politics and is a treasure chest of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for transformational experiences at SDSU.

The John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive contains :

  • 28,000 long-playing vinyl recordings, and at least 20,000 CDs.
  • The collection documents the creative output of virtually every important Jazz musician from the early 1920s through the beginning of the twenty-first century. All works are in “as new” condition.
    • The music in this group ranges widely, from the very earliest examples of New Orleans Jazz, through Dixieland and Swing, Be Bop, Hard Bop, to the Free Jazz movement of the sixties and early seventies, and up to some of the most recent recordings of musicians such as Henry Threadgill, and Kamasi Washington.
    • It includes a virtually complete documentation of the recorded output of such artists as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Hank Mobley, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler and many others, both mainstream and avant-garde.
  • Most importantly, there is a true treasure trove of virtually all recordings, whether legitimate or “bootleg,” of John Coltrane, including his entire Prestige and Impulse catalogues, on LP as well as CD, including such extreme rarities as the original (mail order only) pressing, on the “Coltrane Records” label, of John Coltrane’s Cosmic Music, as well as numerous rare original, or early pressings, of Coltrane’s other albums on Impulse.
    • Since the original master tapes of the entire catalogue of Impulse Records were recently destroyed in a warehouse fire, these original pressings have, de facto, become the primary source for the sound-documentation of all Impulse recordings, including, of course those of Coltrane.
    • In addition, the collection includes many rare European and Japanese Coltrane concert recordings, as well as records by Johnny Hodges and Dizzy Gillespie documenting some of the young Coltrane’s earliest ventures into public.
  • The collection also includes every LP issued in the famous Blue Note 1500 series of the late nineteen fifties, as well as another 250 or more, representing the vast majority of Blue Note albums issued between then and about 1968, including quite a few of the now much sought-after Rudi Van Gelder master recordings and original pressings (one of which recently set the auction record for an original pressing of a Jazz LP: $ 5,000).
  • Other items of particular interest—and often extreme scarcity—representing some of the most significant work of a variety of Jazz musicians, are the privately-issued recordings and ‘mail-order-only’ original pressings (on “Charles Mingus Records”) of Mingus at Monterey, Town Hall Concert, 1964, vol. 1, My Favorite Quintet, Vol. 1, Tyrone Guthrie Theater [Minneapolis], and Music Written for Monterey, 1965—Not Heard….Played in its Entirety, at UCLA; as well as numerous European issues of Mingus’ 1960s concerts in cities such as Amsterdam and Stuttgart.
    • Many of these recordings include solos by San Diego’s local luminary Charles McPherson. The majority of San Diego-born tenor saxophone star Harold Land’s stellar recordings, both as leader, and as side man to such luminaries as Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Hampton Hawes and Bobby Hutcherson are also included in the collection. Other musicians who were at one time or another San Diego residents, such as Barney Kessel, Mike Wofford, Bob Magnusson and Bill Plank, are also well-represented.
  • The music of the famously esoteric Sun Ra is represented by many rare original (and again, mail order) issues of his Saturn recordings, some of which are so obscure that they are not even included in the available discographies of his music and feature either blank, or hand-made covers. The collection also includes well over one hundred CDs of Ra and his Arkestra’s most important and controversial recordings.
  • Included are other extremely rare—in several cases, not even numbered—recordings issued privately by various avant-garde musicians, particularly during the 1970s, featuring artists such as Andrew Cyrille and Milford Graves:
    •  For example, a private recording of a Don Pullen-Milford Graves concert at Yale University with an original hand-painted cover, and a second volume with further music from that concert, titled Nommo, on SRP Records).
  • Many of the most experimental recordings in the collection, such as those of drummer Sunny Murray, were issued on obscure, and now much sought-after labels such as India Navigation.
    • A few examples of these (among hundreds), are School Days by Steve Lacy (with Roswell Rudd, Henry Grimes and Dennis Charles on Emanem, and Blue Boye, a double vinyl album by Julius Hemphill on Mbari.
  • There are numerous recordings on labels such as Arista Freedom, the early ECM, India Navigation, and various Scandinavian labels such as Sonet, Debut and Steeplechase.
    • Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler are featured on Dutch labels Fontana and Osmosis, while there is a wide range of music by Archie Shepp and numerous others on French labels such as Byg and Impro.
  • The collection also includes many rare, long out-of-print multi-record compilations (both on vinyl and CD), such as a nine CD set of rare recordings by Albert Ayler, titled Holy Ghost, thirty-eight CDs on Transparency of privately recorded sessions by Sun Ra, as well as over sixty boxes (on vinyl or CD) of the Mosaic Records collections of historic recordings by a wide variety of major Jazz musicians.
  • Furthermore, the collection includes more than 2200 LPs, and over 2500 CDs, of various blues, r & b, soul and rap artists, ranging from Ma Rainey, Ida Cox and Bessie Smith to Son Seals, Robert Cray and Keb Mo’; from early r & b singers such as Louis Jordan, Amos Milburn, Annisteen Allen and Camille Howard to Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and Beyonce, and from the Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, NWA and Dr. Dre (the original Ruthless recordings), to Eminem, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar. 
  • The part of the collection devoted to Jamaican music is most likely one of the most comprehensive to be found, certainly on the West Coast, perhaps all together in the United States:
    • It comprises more than 3000 vinyl LPs, hundreds of 45s and 12-inch singles, and at least 3500 CDs, covering Mento, early JA soul, Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae, Grounation, Dub, DJ, Dancehall, Rockers, Roots Revival, Urkle, Jungle, Ragga, etc., etc.
    • Every musician, singer and DJ of any historical importance, from King Stitt, Junior Byles, Joe Higgs, Marcia Griffiths and Lee Perry to Sizzla, Gyptian, Lutan Fyah and Queen Ifrica, is represented extensively, often by a virtually complete discography of his or her work, and often as well by such rare, and sought-after fugitive items as, for instance, Bob Marley’s original 12 inch 45 single of Buffalo Soldiers.
  • Finally, the collection also includes an international section that comprises some 300 vinyl LPs and over 1500 CDs, including extensive coverage of Indonesian, Latin American, African, Haitian, French and various other national music styles influenced by African, or African-American music.

The Coltrane Archive will rapidly create a nationally known collection of the American experience as reflected in recorded sound. Equally so, it will document Jamaican culture and society as well as Indonesian, Latin American, African, Haitian, French and various other national cultures and societies influenced by African, or African-American music – because music reflects the societies that create it.

The portion of the archive comprising virtually all recordings of John Coltrane reflect his investigation of world music, which was his spiritual journey. John Coltrane’s music reflected his Universalist spirituality – a belief in the truth and value of all music – of all religions. To John Coltrane, a musician was a message-giver; making music was an endeavor tied to a larger, greater good. Our hope is that The John Coltrane Memorial Black Music Archive will continue sending messages for the larger, greater good.

 “There is never any end…there are always new sounds to imagine, new feelings to get at. And always there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we've discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are . . . we have to keep on cleaning the mirror.” – John Coltrane

“I know that there are bad forces, forces that bring suffering to others and misery to the world. I want to be the opposite force. I want to be the force which is truly for good.” – John Coltrane

Contact Us

Special Collections & University Archives Contact

Location: SDSU Library & Information Access, Love Library Room 150
Phone: 619.594.6791

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