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Columbia College Chicago
Paul Eduard Miller papers

Paul Eduard Miller papers

Miller, Paul Eduard, 1903–

Papers, dated mainly between 1934 and 1950, and undated, consisting primarily of typescripts of his published and unpublished writings including radio scripts, critical writings, and two versions of his unpublished book “The Best Jazz.” There are also his collection of books and periodicals, photographs (dated circa 1907 to 1955), and sound recordings, including limited edition recordings of Sidney Bechet performing during a visit to Chicago.

10 boxes, 1 volume

Donated by his daughter, Bonnie Miller Barnes, 1995 and 2009. Additional donations are possible.

Biographical note:

Paul Eduard Miller (1902–1972) was a jazz critic and journalist. He began writing for Down Beat in the 1930s, eventually becoming a contributing editor. He also edited their jazz yearbook in 1939. From 1944 to 1947, he was the jazz editor of Esquire and edited Esquire's immensely popular jazz yearbooks, publishing his own Yearbook of Popular Music in 1943. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he hosted a radio show on WXRT-FM in Chicago called This is Jazz.

Miller seems to have preferred traditional jazz and had great respect for New Orleans jazzman Sidney Bechet in particular. He repeatedly named the reed player to his all-star roster in Esquire's Jazz Book, and in 1946 and 1947 Miller presented Bechet in a series of concerts in Chicago. He also entertained Bechet at his home on several occasions during the 1940s.

Miller wrote an ambitious critical study titled “The Best Jazz,” which was never published.

Scope note:

Paul Eduard Miller's surviving papers consist of typescripts of his published and unpublished writings, including Down Beat's Yearbook of Swing (1938), his own Miller's Yearbook of Popular Music (1943), and the Esquire Jazz Books for 1944 and 1946. In addition there are versions of Miller's attempts to write a canon-defining book on jazz: “Testimonial to Jazz,” (1936) and a later undated typescript “The Best Jazz,” in which Miller discusses and rates musicians and recordings. Also present are radio scripts for his radio program “This Is Jazz” on WXRT-FM for the year 1948 and playlists for “This Is Jazz” and “Classics of Jazz” for January–June 1950.

Other materials donated include photographs, sound recordings, a small amount of early twentieth-century sheet music, copies of his publications, and jazz record catalogs and discographies.

The collection of photographs is fairly substantial, dating from 1907(?) to 1955, and undated, with the bulk dated from the mid-1940s. Analog sound recordings focus on earlier jazz performers; of particular interest are the 1946–1947 Bechet recordings.