The history of jazz on the Internet goes back almost to the beginnings of jazz itself, one crisp autumn day in 1924 when Louis Armstrong
first conceived of breaking the music down into tiny packets that could then be distributed across a network where they could be reassembled at some other distant point back into their original form. The computer had not yet been invented, and Armstrong's plan was to distribute the packets via America's extensive network of hobos. The plan might have worked, had it not been for the predilection of the hobos to use the set-up to also distribute porn and advertisements for herbal "enhancements."
Moving ahead to 1957, when Dizzy Gillespie
and Charlie Parker
conceive of a central clearinghouse for everything jazz-related that anyone could visit at any hour of the day or night. The problem was placing it in a location that was convenient to everyone on the planet. Gillespie favored placing it New York City, arguably the cultural capital of the new world; while Parker wanted to put it in his living room because it seemed like everybody in the damned world was in and out of there while he was trying to watch The Honeymooners
In 1974, a rather significant event occurred. While working with DARPA to develop a formula for synthetic cool so that American secret agents could score Eastern bloc tail like they did in all those 60's spy movies, Miles Davis
stumbled upon a way of getting the primitive computers of the day to communicate with each other over great distances. The plan worked, creating the first network of computers. The interconnecting hardware (tin cans and enormous lengths of waxed string), however, proved cumbersome and unreliable.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia
, a young Michael Ricci
(above) began to formulate a way to share his burgeoning love of jazz with the world. His first attempt to create an authoritative site was hampered by his medium, the Etch-a-sketch, which suffered from several inherent drawbacks. First, it was nearly impossible to draw the circular All About Jazz logo (which came to him as though in a dream). Secondly, after it had been passed around a few times, it got fuzzy and hard to read. Third, moving from page to page was labor-intensive and sometimes required hours just to draw a rudimentary HTTP 404-File Not Found message. A subsequent effort using a Lite Brite fared no better.
Initially, young Ricci (no relation to Christina Ricci, because I'm sure if he was he would have hooked me up by now) had wanted to be an inventor. By the age of 11, he had already formulated a working prototype of flubber, but nixed the project for fear Disney would make a horrid movie about it starring Robin Williams as him and Benji as Ted the Wonder Dog
. Pretending as though nothing had happened, he took up the trumpet and decided he wanted to be Chet Baker
. This didn't pan out, because Chet Baker was still being him and by the time he vacated the post in 1988, Ricci had already graduated from Ohio State and was pursuing a career in cartoons. This was cut short when he lost out for the lead in a new Fox sitcom to a then-unknown Milhouse Van Houten, and the rest is history.
Then, in the early nineties, Ricci discovered the miracle of the Internet. At first just considered a way for teenagers to misspell dirty words to each other in chat rooms, Ricci saw the true potential that laid beyond the garish banner ads and moronic dancing hamsters. After forming his own software company, which was required by law for anyone who owned a computer in the nineties, he set out to combine his lifelong love of jazz with the burgeoning technology now at his fingertips.
In 1995, All About Jazz was born after a few early misfires such as the ill-fated If You Don't Like Jazz Then to Hell With You
, and Mike Ricci's Jazz-a-Sketch
(which required visitors to shake their monitors in order to move on to the next page). At first just a place for jazz fans to get hip to the latest, it soon blossomed into a breathtaking beauty whose attributes brought grown men to their knees. Or am I still thinking of Christina Ricci?
I shall never tire of that gag.
From the beginning, AAJ was dedicated to the premise that jazz belonged to the people. Not some hothouse diversion for the excessively well-groomed, or an esoteric pastime for people with a liberal arts degree and something to prove, jazz is a living music that is as integral to the American identity as baseball and those movies where the rich boy falls in love with the plucky gal from the wrong side of the tracks and of course his parents disapprove of her but she soon wins their hearts and everyone lives happily ever after except that the sequel tanks at the box office.