The Internet is like a huge highway with few reliable signposts. You can drive everywhere, but how can we know which places are worth a visit?
Not that I know the answer, but Franz Hoffmann and Mark Cantor have demonstrated along the years that their work is detailed, reliable and done with the utmost care. The fact that it has been used time and time again with a lot of researchers, writers, and other people interested in jazz, is the best proof we can have.
So, why are Hoffmann and Cantor known for?
Franz Hoffmann, from Germany, has compiled several collection of adverts from several American newspapers—New York Age, Baltimore Afro-American, New York Amsterdam News, Chicago Defender, The New York Times, Pittsburgh Courier, and The (New York) Village Voice, 1901-1967—and made them into books and sell them (they're available on CD-ROM from Norbert Ruecker's Jazz Book Shop). The idea is simple, but by executing it he has made available a staggering amount of precise information about gigs and other news, and he has also revealed a well-defined picture of the extraordinary musical life in America. He's also the author of bio-discographies of Henry 'Red' Allen and J.C. Higginbotham, as well as other assorted research, such as Art Ford's jazz TV programmes.
The good news is that now all that is available free, on line. The ads are here, and the Allen/Higginbotham, as well as other bits, are here. He also has his own channel on YouTube, where he has uploaded over 400 rare recordings, mostly accompanied by relevant images from his ad collections. The channel is Kanal von Hoffmannjazz.
As for Mark Cantor, when it comes to old music films, mainly jazz, but also other genres, he's just the man everybody calls. In brief, any serious work with old footage in it is likely to have Cantor on board. One of the things that distinguishes him is his knack for identifying everyone on screen and unveiling every possible tidbit of information. Mark's introduction to his website is here, and a healthy selection of his work can be found here.
This, for instance, is a great example of what Mark does:
Jack Teagarden playing "Lover" was one of the highlights of a classic Louis Armstrong recording at Boston's Symphony Hall in 1947. That was the year that the rest of Satchmo's life began, so to speak, and it also marked the launch of the All-Stars in earnest. We also have the Town Hall concert from that same year, but the gig in Boston is my favourite, and the sort of record everyone should have at home (here it is on Spotify, MySpace, and iTunes).
The good news from the jazz grapevine is that Universal and the Louis Armstrong Museum in Queens are working on a complete edition of that concert, with previously unissued material. It will come out as a Hip-O Select set and it promises to be something else.