Steve Lieblich: The Liner Notes Project

If, like me, you enjoy digging into the nuts and bolts of jazz, today’s interview guest has something fascinating to share with you…

Steve Lieblich is founder of The Liner Notes Project which provides detailed recording information for more than 1.6 million albums – including many in the world of jazz. And, if that’s not enough, it’s totally free to use.

Completely interactive, each entry allows you to go down the rabbit hole of a specific player, producer or even song. For example, joining the dots between 972 albums featuring Ron Carter, 433 albums produced by Alfred Lion, or 1,873 versions of Autumn Leaves…

To tell us more about the project, please welcome Steve.

Could you please give us a little background about you and the Liner Notes Project?

Like many of your readers, I grew up listening to jazz. My father was partial to big band jazz – Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson – but also the classic jazz of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, etc.

These were the albums on heavy rotation in our household, with a little WRVR (106.7 for those in NY in the 70s) sprinkled in. As I grew older, my interests expanded from this to contemporary jazz, jazz fusion, and later, R&B, thus launching a fascination with the intersection of various musical genres and the ability for musicians I admired to transcend style and genre.

But as much as I enjoyed the music, I also enjoyed studying the musicians, composers, producers and arrangers behind the music, and was a voracious reader of the credits and liner notes of the thousand-plus albums I ultimately owned.

Later, as those albums were replaced by CDs, and both gave way to music streaming services, I found I greatly missed having those liner notes on hand.

And this brings me to The Liner Notes Project, which I began developing in 2019 and which is absolutely free to use – no login or credit card required, and better still, no advertising or popups to distract you!

The site currently has a database of 1.6 million albums; I’m guessing this wasn’t done manually, so interested to hear how the magic happens!

There’s no particular magic. I’ve developed software to ingest and scrape whatever data I can find, and then have a lot of post-processing to cleanse, normalize, and optimize that data for the most complete and accurate set of credits possible.

My latest update added integration with Wikipedia for bios and pictures, and more importantly, links to music streaming services (Apple, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, Tidal, SoundCloud, and YouTube) along with social media sites (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (X), and TikTok).

Lots of work getting these linkages right, so more updates and
corrections in the coming weeks and months. But the idea is that users are now one click away from streaming the music or connecting with the artists on social media.

You’ll also see on the home page that I have examples of full album artwork as well as original liner note essays, two features I’m interested in exploring further as I begin working with record labels directly.

What are some common use-cases for the site?

For the avid listener, The Liner Notes Project can reveal who composed, produced, arranged, performed, and engineered whichever album or song to which you’ve navigated.

Better still, everything you see in an album’s credits can be clicked, which automatically generates a new search. So if you’re looking at Miles Davis’ KIND OF BLUE, for example, click on producer Irving Townsend to discover all of the other albums he produced. Or click on Alto Saxophonist Cannonball Adderley to see all of his albums as Featured Artist, or Player, or Producer, or Composer.

Kind of Blue via The Liner Notes Project

And if you were curious to see who else has recorded “Blue In Green,” simply click on the song title and you’ll find over 400 albums which feature that song, from co-writer Bill Evans in 1960 to John McLaughlin in 1971, Cassandra Wilson in 1986, Charlie Haden in 1988, all the way up to Pat Metheney’s recording of it on his most recent album in 2023.

Though I’ve done almost no advertising for the site, it seems to have been bookmarked across several radio stations’ computers, where DJs are using it to help inform their listeners about some of this information in real time.

And of course there’s the inevitable “I wonder who’s playing bass on this song” (as an example), for which I find myself using the site a few times a day.

As a music fan, how do you feel liner notes expand the listening experience?

There have been and remain so many talented musicians and composers and producers working across musical genres that it’s hard to discover NEW music or rediscover older music you may have missed.

Curated playlists from streaming services are one option, but so too is the ability to follow the musicians directly, something not available with these services.

So whether you traverse the site following a favorite producer or trumpet player or drummer, I guarantee you’ll stumble upon something that piques your curiosity.

Did you learn anything surprising or contrary to your beliefs around music in the process of putting this site together?

I’m constantly surprised by talented artists’ ability to play across multiple genres, and The Liner Notes Project helps expose so many great examples of this.

I didn’t know, for example, that Maurice White (who would later create Earth, Wind & Fire in the 1970s) began as a jazz drummer in the 1960s for the likes of Sonny Stitt, Sonny Cox, and Ramsey Lewis.

Or that in addition to so many wonderful albums as a featured artist before his untimely passing, Roy Hargrove played trumpet on albums by artists such as Aaron Neville, Shirley Horn, John Mayer, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and Rod Stewart.

The challenge in putting this all together is and will remain DATA. As much as I’ve managed to capture from various sites online, more work remains.

I’m anxious to collaborate with record labels to tap into some of their data, and happy to provide them whatever I have in return.

Do you have any interesting stats related to the jazz world which you can pull out of all that data?

There’s so much to choose from with a question like this, but there are a few examples that might be interesting.

Note that the album counts are constantly changing as more updates to the site come in):

  • Producer
    o Norman Granz was a producer on 690 albums
    o Creed Taylor was a producer on 449 albums
    o Alfred Lion was a producer on 433 albums
  • Composer
    o George Gershwin’s compositions appear on 8,280 albums
    o Duke Ellington’s compositions appear on 7,554 albums
    o Johnny Mercer’s compositions appear on 5,685 albums
  • Musician
    o Ron Carter has played bass on 972 albums
    o Randy Brecker has played trumpet on 935 albums
    o Steve Gadd has played drums on 648 albums
  • Song
    o “Summertime” appears on 3,126 albums
    o “Body and Soul” appears on 1,934 albums
    o “Autumn leaves” appears on 1,873 albums
  • Engineer
    o Rudy Van Gelder engineered / mastered 2,790 albums

Lots more great data to discover, so please feel free to use the site and enjoy. And better still, share the link with anyone you believe might appreciate it.

And if you have suggestions, comments, requests for features, etc., email me via steven[dot]lieblich[at]4jems[dot]com. I’m anxious to continue improving the data quality and adding features.

Once again, big thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer these questions. And, more impressively, put together this website!

Please do give it a try, and let us know any feedback in the comments section!

2 thoughts on “Steve Lieblich: The Liner Notes Project”

  1. I find it rewarding and informative to realize the tremendous contributions of non-players to jazz performance and recording — Norman Granz, Alfred Lion. and Rudy Van Gelder from this list. Which gives me the opportunity to plug a personal favorite: Orrin Keepnews of Riverside (and subsequent) label fame, or as Bill Evans so cleverly honored with a tune title anagram of his name. Re: Person I Knew

  2. It’s a nice effort at first sight, but when delving in a little deeper I’m having some issues with it:
    – a lot of data appears to be have been taken from (including errors), but less complete
    – there is no structural mechanism for user contribution (other than sending a feedback email)
    Still, the click-through feature works quite nicely, quite a bit faster than It’s nice for occasional searches, not for finding full discographical details.


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