Free online archive featuring 1000s of hours of early jazz recordings

David W. Niven was a high school teacher from New Jersey, and a big fan of jazz. He spent his life amassing a vast record collection, all dedicated to the sounds of Early Jazz.


He started buying records in the 20s, and in the 80s started transferring his record collection on cassette tapes, often prefacing them with audio commentaries that offered background information on each recording.


Niven’s collection of “Early Jazz Legends” made its way to the web in 2013, long after his death in 1991, thanks to archivist Kevin J. Powers. It is now available for free on, and features the early works of such artists as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton, along with Niven’s commentaries and liner notes.


“This is an extraordinary collection,” archivist Kevin J. Powers writes on introducing the collection. “It has been Mr. Niven’s life’s work. It represents the very finest American music of the 20th century, and because Mr. Niven took the time and care to record these commentaries, he has produced a library that is accessible to everyone from jazz aficionados to jazz novices.”


To listen to the collection, go to

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