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Columbia College Chicago
Martin Williams papers

Martin Williams papers

Williams, Martin T.

Papers, dated 1945 to 1992, including published articles, unpublished manuscripts, files and correspondence, and music scores of jazz compositions.

7 boxes, plus books and analog sound discs (LPs, 78s, 45s)

Bequest of Martin Williams; received 1992.

Biographical note:

Martin Williams (1924–1992) was born in Richmond, Virginia, and educated at the University of Virginia (BA, 1948), the University of Pennsylvania (MA, 1950) and Columbia University. He was a nationally known critic, specializing in jazz and American popular culture. He wrote for major jazz periodicals, especially Down Beat, and co-founded The Jazz Review. Williams wrote numerous books on jazz, including The Jazz Tradition, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), which won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music criticism in 1973. During 1971–1981, he directed the Jazz and American Culture Programs at the Smithsonian Institution, where he compiled two widely respected collections of recordings, The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz and The Smithsonian Collection of Big Band Jazz. His liner notes for the latter won a Grammy Award.

Scope note:

Martin Williams preferred to retain his writings in their published form: there are many clipped articles but few manuscript drafts of published materials in his files. Neither did he usually retain correspondence after a project was completed. Nevertheless, the one foot of papers received after his death contains interesting documentation of his dealings with his publishers and with other critics and scholars. There are also uncompleted and unpublished articles and reviews. The collection is arranged in seven series, as follows:

Series I: Papers
Series II: Single published articles
Series III: Printed music and music manuscripts
Series IV: Periodicals (series)
Series V: Periodicals (single issues) and programs
Series VI: Books
Series VII: Sound recordings

The files in Series I were retained in their original order with their original file headings. Series II contains clipped articles by Williams. The music in Series III, consisting mainly of stock arrangements of Jelly Roll Morton tunes, was collected for an intended project on Morton. In Series IV, periodical runs are arranged alphabetically by title then by date; in most cases, Williams kept only issues containing his writings or issues in which he had some particular interest. Series V consists of individual periodicals with articles by Williams, arranged by title.

Williams donated all of his jazz-related materials to the CBMR, including his books, most of which have been shelved and cataloged with the regular library holdings. His sizable collection of recordings, many donated before his death, is shelved separately and is available for listening onsite.