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The jazz standard remains an enduring part of the tradition of jazz performance and pedagogy. Contemporary jazz scholarship has tended to focus on improvisation as a practice and jazz-as-lived-experience and, while the jazz standard repertoire has occasionally been the subject of study the relationship between the standard repertoire and the ‘language’ or style of jazz has not been theorised. In this article I argue that the distinctive style of jazz improvisation is at least in part, determined by the characteristics of its shared repertoire and the statements that have accrued around that repertoire. I borrow Foucault’s conception of the archive to propose a reexamination of the historical progression of ideas that troubles the narrative of the individual creative genius and of jazz as the normative condition of improvisation. In this genealogical context, the jazz standard is positioned as an archive of a particular body of thought, a way of organizing and understanding the transmission, evolution and connection of ideas over time. The intended effect is to provide an alternative perspective on creativity in jazz, and a theorisation of an idea that is already implicit in jazz pedagogy and practice.