Bielefelder 2003

by Mike Hennessey

Since the first edition of the Bielefelder Katalog was published back in 1962, it has become, without doubt, the most valuable and comprehensive Jazz record reference work of its kind. (We reported on the Katalog in the July 1995, August 1998, July 1999, September 1999 editions of Jazz Now.)

It is compiled with meticulous care and great dedication by veteran Munich-based Jazz record collector and enthusiast, Manfred Scheffner, who also manages the record section of the Munich department store, Ludwig Beck. This store stocks about 140,000 Jazz albums on more than 1,000 different labels.

Scheffner became interested in Jazz as a teenager and the first Jazz disc he bought was Sidney Bechet's 1944 recording of "Blue Horizon", a Blue Note release which was issued in Germany on the Climax label.

Since then Manfred has enlarged his record collection somewhat; at the last count it comprised more than 70,000 LPs and CDs.

While the record market as a whole in Germany has sustained a sales decline of almost 40% over the past two years, Jazz sales have not suffered nearly so severely. One of the reasons for this is that Jazz enthusiasts tend to buy legitimate copies of albums rather than patronise the pirates or download the music illegally from the Internet. Other factors are the increasingly poor quality of pop repertoire and the fact that young people are diverting their spending money to other pursuits, including video games and mobile telephones.

Sales of Jazz repertoire have not suffered nearly so much. According to Scheffner, Jazz sales have declined by around 5% in each of the last two years. (Incidentally, Jazz sales around the world are generally pretty static or in decline, although, amazingly, in South Korea, they represented 9% of the total in 2001, compared with 8% in 2000.)

The general decrease is reflected in the fact that whereas Jazz record sales represented 2% of the total German market in 2000, in 2001 (the latest year for which figures are available) their share was down to 1%. It is true that increasingly, record companies are failing to give adequate promotion to Jazz repertoire (except in the case of those artists in which they have invested vast promotional sums) and radio and television stations, if they present Jazz at all, do it when the vast majority of people are fast asleep.

By far the best-selling Jazz album currently, as far as Ludwig Beck's store is concerned, is Keith Jarrett's "Up For It" (ECM), recorded by his Standards Trio (Gary Peacock and Jack De Johnette) at the Antibes Festival last summer. Also registering impressive sales are the albums by Grammy Award-winning ladies, Diana Krall and Norah Jones, both of whom have been heavily promoted by their record companies.

Although it lists only CDs, cassettes and LPs which are available in Germany, the Bielefelder Katalog is nevertheless of great value to Jazz record collectors everywhere because Jazz releases are, for the most part, common to all countries.

As in previous editions, the 2003 Katalog is divided into three sections, the first listing tune titles, the second artists and the third the releases, arranged under record labels in alphabetical order. All are cross-referenced and the Katalog provides detailed information about the recordings, record title, format, name of group or soloist, compositions played, recording dates, bandleader and sidemen with instruments.

The 779-page 2003 edition lists more than a thousand new releases, (compared with 590 last year), more than 6,000 albums altogether (7,000 last year), around 40,000 compositions and 25,000 artists. It should be remembered that the album listings represent about 70% of the total Jazz albums available in Germany because of the failure of some companies to communicate a full list of their releases.

The Katalog sells around 6,000 copies each year, most sales being in Germany, with foreign sales, principally in Europe, USA and Japan, accounting for 25% of the total.

The 2003 edition is available in printed form at 24.50 Euros (about $28) and can be obtained from Manfred Scheffner at P.O. Box 60 07 32, 81207 Munich, Germany. It is also available in CD-Rom form.

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