By Jessica Jardine

Mark Cantor may seem like your average kindergarten teacher, having thirty years’ experience with the little rugrats, but just throw out a name like “Billie Holiday” or “Dinah Washington,” and you’ll suddenly be confronted with one of the world’s foremost jazz historians. This UCSB graduate has been collecting rare jazz films for over thirty years and frequently treks up from Agoura Hills to share some of his private collection with Santa Barbara. Some of the 4,000 prints Cantor owns were used in the PBS special, Ken Burns’ “Jazz,” and he is seen as having one of the most remarkable jazz film archives in existence. This Sunday, Cantor prepares to bring clips featuring Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong, among others, to Campbell Hall, starting at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased at any A.S. ticket booth.

Artsweek: How did you get started collecting these jazz films?

Mark Cantor: I’ve been listening to jazz and popular music since I was a little kid and collected old 78s and LPs. One day when I was out looking for old 78s, I encountered a jazz film, which sort of opened up a whole new horizon, because not only could you hear this famous artist, but you could see them as well. And so I’ve been collecting these films ever since – for a little more than 30 years. And every once in a while, I have the chance to go out and share the films in public, which is what I’m doing up in Santa Barbara.

Where do you generally find them?

From other collectors, people’s attics and basements, something as obvious as eBay on occasion. But I’ve been doing this for many years, so I sort of know where to look at this point in time.

Is there a very large network of jazz film collectors?

Not really. There are maybe half a dozen of us worldwide who are really into the collecting and the preserving of these films. It’s a pretty small fraternity.

Do you have a particularly treasured print?

What happens is, when you collect films, what’s your favorite film or print sort of changes. Something’s a favorite until something brand new comes along, and then for a while you’ve got this new favorite piece. Although among the films that I absolutely adore, there’s a duet between Coleman [Hawkins] and Charlie Parker that we’ll be showing up in Santa Barbara this weekend that has always been a special favorite of mine.

Do you have a favorite jazz musician?

Phew. Among the many, one of my favorites is Lester Young.

What should people expect if they attend on Sunday?

You don’t have to be familiar with the music to enjoy the program, because the clips are not all short, but range from three to nine minutes. If there’s something that’s not catching your attention, something new is going to happen in four or five minutes. But I think what makes the program really work is the fact that there’s such a wide variety of types of music. Everything from sort of a New Orleans Dixieland feel to modern jazz, and everything from instrumental to vocal to jazz dance.

And you’re a kindergarten teacher by day?


Have you shown these films to the kids?

Oh, yes.

Do they enjoy them?

Some of them they enjoy and some of them they put up with. They particularly enjoy the jazz cartoons, as you would suspect.

You’re planning on writing a book about Panorams. What are they?

Soundies. Jukebox shorts from the 1940s. They’re the precursors to MTV, only from many, many decades ago.

Where would one find more information about jazz and jazz films?

The Internet. You can check out my website: But the best way to start is come to the show on Sunday.