In the fall of 1964, on a visit to the World’s Fair, in Queens, Lewis Altfest, a twenty-five-year-old accountant, came upon an open-air display called the Parker Pen Pavilion, where a giant computer clicked and whirred at the job of selecting foreign pen pals for curious pavilion visitors. You filled out a questionnaire, fed it into the machine, and almost instantly received a card with the name and address of a like-minded participant in some far-flung locale—your ideal match.
The collection is, in a word, historic. "It is a wonderful addition to our knowledge of a great period in jazz," says Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. And, Morgenstern says, "the sound quality of many of these works is amazing. Some of it is of pristine quality. It is a cultural treasure and should be made widely available." The question, however, is whether that will happen anytime soon. And if it doesn’t, music fans might be justified in putting the blame on copyright law.