Dan Morgenstern

This article was previously published in Connect Fall 2011

But the title held longest, and the one from which all the others flow, is “lifelong lover of the music called jazz,” which he will hold long after his January 2012 retirement from IJS.

Morgenstern was born in Vienna, home of the waltz, but the city where his passion for jazz was born was Copenhagen. When he came to New York in 1947, one of the young immigrant’s first stops was 52nd Street (“Swing Street”), then a “legendary block of jazz clubs.” That visit, and many subsequent ones, truly sealed Morgenstern’s life in jazz.

Before Morgenstern came to Rutgers in 1976 to direct IJS, that life included seven years as editor of Down Beat magazine, last editor of Metronome and first editor of Jazz Magazine, and stints as jazz reviewer for the New York Post and record-reviewer for the Chicago Sun Times. ”I never anticipated winding up in the academic world, after my prior incarnation as a journalist, but it turned out to be an ideal job for this lifelong lover of the music called jazz,” he reflects. “The opportunity to collect, preserve and make accessible some of the rich heritage of jazz has been an immensely satisfying experience.”

AS IJS director, he and his colleagues transformed the collection created by jazz historian Marshall Stearns into the most extensive, and most respected, jazz archive in the world. Its reputation is such that when Ken Burns was creating his award-winning PBS documentary on jazz, he knew exactly where to turn for the most authoritative jazz knowledge: Dan Morgenstern and the IJS. IJS has become a central resource for the Rutgers MA in Jazz History program, and a vital programming partner to WBGO-FM, the only full-time jazz radio station in the greater New YorkNew Jersey region. The prolific author of hundreds of articles, and co-author or contributor to numerous jazz books, Morgenstern plans to write a memoir during his new free time.

Over the years Morgenstern has received many accolades, in addition to those eight Grammies. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded him the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy; Down Beat magazine gave Morgenstern a Lifetime Achievement Award; The Recording Academy bestowed its Legacy Award; and he has received three Deems Taylor Awards, including one for each of his two books, from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

Morgenstern expects one of the things he will miss most in retirement is “a daily environment dominated by young people- -something I’m pretty sure has helped to keep me from becoming an old fogey!”