It was an interesting week on Jazz Collector following the chronicles of my purchase of the Irving Kalus collection and the subsequent comments, which are ongoing as I type this. Later in the week, when I have time, I will do an epilogue and I will also put all of the posts together in a single story, which will be downloadable as a PDF. The whole thing will probably read a bit like novel all at once. It’s a marvel of our era that through the Internet we could give life to a college essay written more than 60 years ago and create a living online legacy for a man who had passed in relative obscurity, except, of course, to his beloved family and friends. I certainly feel honored and blessed to have been able to play a part in that, so the gift to me is not just Irving’s records but the psychic reward of having done some good work. For all of the time and effort and money I’ve put into Jazz Collector for the past 10 years, this is a real nice payback.
Having said that, let’s move back on the mundane business of watching collectible jazz vinyl on eBay. Here are some items of interest this week:
Sonny Clark, Cool Struttin’, Blue Note 1588. Irving did not have an original pressing of this, just a blue label Liberty. However, I was fortunately able to pick up an original in a previous collection I purchased. For that whole story you’ll have to wait for the Jazz Collector book, which is still a vision in my brain at this point. This original pressing of Cool Struttin’ is in beautiful M- condition for the record and the cover and is currently priced at more than $2,000. Even at that price it may not sell: It has not yet reached the seller’s reserve.
As promised, here is the paper written by Irving Kalus on Charlie Parker, dated December 22, 1949. I have to really admire that Irving caught on to bebop so quickly and ardently, and he recognized the genius and contribution of Bird. You can see that this paper is written with tremendous passion and feeling and probably some hyperbole that can be easily excused by the exuberance of youth. As Irving’s son Gary told me, Irving was a fan of Benny Goodman . . . well, read it and see. I’ve reprinted the entire paper below and I’m also attaching it as a downloadable PDF (Ornithology). It’s remarkably similar to the article I wrote in 1975, when I was 22 and had the benefit of 20 years of history after Bird had died. You can find my article here: An Old Jazz Collector Tribute to Charlie Parker. Irving was neither a writer nor jazz critic by trade, but he certainly had a gift for both and, from now on, perhaps forever, whenever anyone does a Google search linking on Irving Kalus, the names Charlie Parker and Irving Kalus will be inextricably tied together. It’s a nice thought and a pretty apt tribute, wouldn’t you say?
Jul 26, 2012 Jazz Memoirs
Irving Kalus was 82 years old when he died on December 22, 2011. It was early in the evening and he had just gone to the record store around the corner, Infinity Records, in Massapequa Park on Long Island. He bought a Miles Davis record and was crossing Sunrise Highway when he got hit by a car and was killed instantly. I didn’t know Irving Kalus personally, but I seem to know him quite intimately now, at least in connection with one particularly important area of his life: His love of jazz. It was Irving Kalus’ collection that I purchased a few weeks ago and I would like to share what I have learned about the man and his life-long passion for jazz.
Irving fell in love with jazz when he was a teenager. His son Gary remembers him telling stories about musicians he had met – the time Sarah Vaughan kissed him on the cheek, the times Dizzy Gillespie would talk with him outside a club before or after a gig. Bud Powell once fixed him a drink: “He called it a Joe Louis because he said it will really knock you out,” Gary recalls his father telling him. Irving picked up on bebop quite early and it clearly had a profound influence on his life.
Jul 25, 2012 Jazz Memoirs
When I left Massapequa on Monday Karen said she wanted to sell the records to me but it was not her decision alone, she would have to consult with her brother. She believed that he would also want to sell the records to me and they’d probably give me the go-ahead on Tuesday. When I didn’t hear from Karen by Tuesday evening I started getting a little nervous: Were they getting cold feet, were they shopping the collection around, was there suddenly going to be a slew of cutthroat record dealers sniping for the records? Just the normal paranoia, right? I wasn’t all that concerned because I believed that no dealer would come close to the offer I made because, well, for me it wasn’t a business decision but an emotional decision. If it was about business, I would have spent more than a half hour with the records in the first place, and I would have at least gone through them all to identify the ones of the most value and to figure out how to get rid of the ones I didn’t want. But I was just improvising and by this point it wasn’t about whether I had made the right decision to buy the records, it was just about closing the deal.
Have I ever mentioned that The Lovely Mrs. JC is a psychotherapist by profession? You’d think after 35 years of marriage to a shrink I’d have been somewhat cured of my vinyl obsession by now. Anyway, The Lovely Mrs. JC returned home from her practice that Monday evening and we sat down to have a quiet dinner and chat. We had many things to talk about and the record collection wasn’t foremost on her mind and, in fact, I had made such little light of the prospects for this collection that it seemed to have slipped her mind completely. So I had to bring it up.
“You know I saw that record collection today,” I said, quite casually.
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Anything of interest?”
“Yes, it was pretty interesting,” I said.
We sat in silence for a few seconds.
“There’s a chance I may be buying it,” I finally said.
She stared at me in stunned disbelief.
I smiled a sheepish smile and held up three fingers.
Her eyes popped out of her head. “Three hundred records! How can you buy three hundred more records!”
Jul 23, 2012 Jazz Memoirs
So now I had a general sense of the collection but since my original intent was to just look it over and give advice, I had no real sense of whether I would want to buy the collection or even whether they would be interested in selling it to me. So I wasn’t overly excited or enthused as I sat down with Karen and Adam to tell them what I had discovered. I said that it was an amazing collection of music mostly from the bop and post-bop era, that most of the records were reissues or later pressings, but that there were, indeed, some valuable records within the collection. I didn’t say how many valuable records because I had no idea. I then asked Karen if her father had ever talked about the records and what they might be worth and what to do with them after he passed away. She said that she had never really had that discussion with her father, and neither did her brother. She said her father just loved the music and never really considered the records as something of monetary value, just something to treasure and enjoy.
Jul 22, 2012 Jazz Memoirs
So I’m sitting on the floor and there’s this two-shelf low cabinet and there’s maybe 300 records in it altogether and I reach for the Coltranes on Impulse and pull them out. They are not obvious originals but each one has a gatefold cover, so there is hope. I open the first one, Ballads. And it is . . . ugh, a very late black label pressing. Then A Love Supreme: late pressing, black and red label. In fact, I go through all of the Coltrane Impulses and there’s not a single original pressing in the bunch. And now I’m fairly convinced that this is just a lovely collection of great music but not one of collectible records. And I am almost ready to give up and give Karen my advice, which is that she should probably go to Infinity Records around the corner and see what they would pay.
And then, in the middle of the Coltranes, there is this record: Sonny Clark, Sonny’s Crib, Blue Note 1576. And I remember thinking, why is the Sonny Clark record amid all of the Coltranes? But, of course, Coltrane is a sideman on this record and if the guy was a real Coltrane fan perhaps he organized his records according to his favorite artists and wanted all of his Coltrane records in one place. As a collector who constantly reorganizes and plays with my own collection, I could certainly relate to that.
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Jul 21, 2012 Jazz Memoirs
So it came to that Monday, June 25, and I was driving down from The Berkshires to drop the lovely Mrs. JC off at her office in Great Neck and I was then to head out to Massapequa to see this record collection. And I really had no expectations about the collection and no real desire to see it and was feeling I was doing it just as a favor to the woman who sent me the e-mail to help her out because, clearly, her father loved jazz and it would be a nice thing to do. So I told the Lovely Mrs. JC, who tends to get nervous when I am around too many records, that there was nothing to worry about, that it was not a collectible collection and I would just take a look at it and give them advice and not be bringing any more records home. No problem, I said, but the look in her eyes was a familiar combination of doubt and dread.
I got to the house in Massapequa at the appointed time, put my dog Marty in a carrying bag and was greeted at the door by a muscular young man who let me in and told me his name was Adam and it was his grandfather’s collection. And then Adam’s mother appeared, and she was the one I had been e-mailing with, and introduced herself as Karen. I assumed Adam was there to ensure that I wasn’t some wacked out crazed record collecting nut, which seemed like a reasonable expectation at the time and I thought this was a wise decision on their behalf. Karen appeared to be a few years younger than me, but of my generation, and we started chatting and we had a very nice rapport because we had in common, among other things, fathers who were obsessed with jazz music and jazz records.
A few weeks ago a woman sent me the following e-mail:
“I’m wondering if you can help me. My dad passed away suddenly in an accident. He left a huge jazz collection of approximately 2500+ vinyl albums. He died at 82 and was a jazz enthusiastic since his teens and his collection dates back to then. To his great disappointment I did not share his passion for jazz. I am interested in selling his collection. How can I go about finding its value? I’ve read some of the information on your blog and realize I need to consult an expert. Any guidance you can give would be greatly appreciated.”
I get emails like this fairly often now that I do Jazz Collector. They usually don’t turn out to be much. I generally look to help people over e-mail and my advice if they have anything collectible is to usually tell them to try to sell the records on eBay. I’m not necessarily looking to purchase collections: I’m still a collector and not a dealer and I have way more records than I have places to keep them. Some of you, Rudolf I’m sure, may even recall that I began a project several years ago to pare down my collection, which I grandly labeled The Great Jazz Vinyl Countdown. Needless to say that project is quite defunct.
Jul 19, 2012 Prestige
Here’s some more jazz vinyl we’re watching on eBay: Miles Davis, Relaxin’, Prestige 7129. This is an original New York deep groove pressing in M- condition for the vinyl and VG++ for the cover. The auction closes tomorrow and the price is in the $230 range. I mentioned in passing that I recently purchased a collection and an M- original pressing of this record was included, so I’m interested in seeing the price. I am just about ready to start writing about my latest adventure in pursuing and purchasing this collection, so stay tuned.
It would have been nice if there were a copy of this record in the collection but, alas, there was not: Hank Mobley, Mobley’s Message, Prestige 7061. This is an original New York pressing in VG++ condition for the vinyl and VG+ for the cover. The price is hovering in the $170 range with three days to go, but it has not yet reached the seller’s reserve.
This one is on the verge of closing as I write this post:
Here we go again: Hank Mobley, Blue Note 1568. This is an original pressing in M- condition for the vinyl and VG++ for the cover. It closes soon and the bidding is in the $2,150 range, except it has yet to reach the seller’s reserve price. I noticed on the listing that the seller points to Jazz Collector for help in ascertaining the value. We’re pleased an flattered and also reminded that we better upgrade our Price Guide this week.
Here are a couple more nice Blue Notes, starting with: Paul Chambers, Whims of Chambers, Blue Note 1534. This is an original Lexington Avenue pressing in M- condition for both the record and the cover. Tough to find these Lexington Avenue Blue Notes in such nice shape. The price for this one has already surpassed $500 and we won’t be surprised if this one goes beyond $1,000. Not just an original Blue Note, but also has the presence of John Coltrane. Also, Johnny Griffin, A Blowing Session, Blue Note 1559. The vinyl on this one is only in VG condition and the cover is VG++. Still, the bidding has already topped $500. My personal experience with original Blue Notes of this era is that records that look to be in VG condition, generally sound pretty darn good, so perhaps other potential buyers are hoping that is the case for this record as well.
Hank Mobley, Blue Note 1568. This was an original original pressing with the New York 23 on side 2. The record was listed in M- condition and the cover looked to be VG++. It sold for $4,617. Do you ever think about what these artists would feel about their records selling for this kind of money? This single record is a lot more than Mobley ever made for a record date and probably isn’t that far from what he got paid for his cumulate output as a leader on Blue Note. Amazing, when you think about it.
John Coltrane, Blue Train, Blue Note 1577. This was also an original pressing from the same seller. It was in M- condition for both the record and the cover. It sold for $2,045. That’s the first time we’ve ever seen Blue Train sell for more than $2,000 in the Jazz Collector Price Guide.
May as well stay in the $1,000 bin:
Let’s catch up on the results of the latest jazz vinyl auction from the Jazz Record Center. I follow their auctions closely because, to me, they are the most reputable of all dealers and, therefore, I see their auctions as fully reflective of market realities, no hype.
Zoot Sims, Down Home, Bethlehem 6051. This was an original red-label pressing in M- condition for both the record and the cover. It sold for $510. I recently picked up my first copy of this record and listened to it the other day. Quite nice: Great Zoot and nice to hear early Dave McKenna. The copy I purchased is in M- condition for the vinyl and VG+ for the cover. Very pleased.
Sonny Rollins, The Sound of Sonny, Riverside 241. This was an original white label pressing in what looked to be M- condition for both the record and the cover. The price was $426. This one went for a little more than usual: Sonny Rollins, Sonny Boy, Prestige 7207. The record looked to be M- and the cover was probably VG++, with a couple of minor blemishes. It sold for $170.39.
Grachan Moncur III, Evolution, Blue Note 4153. This was an original New York USA pressing in M- condition for both the record and the cover. It sold for $688.90. Wow.
Lee Konitz, Tranquility, Verve 8281. This was an original pressing with the trumpeter logo. It was in M- condition for the vinyl and probably VG++ for the cover. It sold for $111.87.
Hank Mobley and Lee Morgan, Peckin’ Time, Blue Note 1574. This was an original West 63rd Street pressing in VG+ condition for both the record and the cover. Interesting, isn’t it, that we’re no longer surprised when VG+ records sell for more than $1,000. This one fetched a price of $1,009. Interesting to look at the cover of this record, given most of the covers that Blue Note was producing at the time, usually featuring some kind of picture of the artist. Simple graphic of a red suitcase and not sure what that has to do with Peckin’ Time or Mobley. There are also no pictures on the back cover. A little bit strange, no? I wonder if there is a story behind the cover?
Here’s another one that broke into the $1,000 bin: Freddie Hubbard, Open Sesame, Blue Note 4040. This looked to be an original pressing, although the seller put in the wrong catalog number. It was listed in VG++ condition for the vinyl and Ex for the cover, which I still take to mean around VG+, although it could be better. This one sold for the same price as the other, $1,009.
I seem to be a bit focused on $1,000 Blue Notes today. Here’s another:
Time to catch up on some jazz vinyl we’ve been watching this past week, starting with Bill Evans Trio, Explorations, Riverside 351. This one was graded in EX condition for the vinyl — which I interpret to be what Goldmine would characterize as VG+. That is, not near mint, but a record that has obviously been played, but is mostly clean. I think people see EX and expect excellent condition and perhaps that inflates the price. The cover was listed as EX+, which I interpret as VG++. Looking at grading labels and language people use is important, I think, in being an aware consumer and not being totally surprised by what you get. It would be nice if there were a universal language and grading system, but then again what would we do with all of the “insanely rare” and “holy grail” language that crops up so often? Anyway, this record sold for $512, a price that leads me to believe someone is expecting an “Excellent” record. What that means, I guess, is in the eye of the beholder.
This one, from the same seller, also got top dollar:
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We always like to watch the auctions from the Jazz Record Center because they are a nice gauge of the overall market. Here are a few items from their latest auction, starting with: Sonny Rollins, The Sound of Sonny, Riverside 241. This is an original pressing with the white labels. It is listed in M- condition for both the record and the cover. The start price is $200 and so far there are no bidders, but we’d expect that to change. We’ve seen copies of this record sell for more than $500 in the Jazz Collector Price Guide.
Bud Powell’s Moods, Norgran 1064. This is an original yellow label pressing. The record and the cover both look to be in M- condition. It has a cover design by David Stone Martin and has a start price of $100. We’d also expect this one to sell, right?
The bidding has already started on this one: Dizzy Reece, Star Bright, Blue Note 4023. This is an original pressing that also looks to be in M- condition for both the record and the cover. The auction closes in about five days and the bidding is now in the $260 range.
Sonny Rollins, Tenor Madness, Prestige 7047. This is an original New York yellow label pressing that looks to be in VG++ condition for both the record and the cover. As I think I’ve said, this is still my favorite Rollins record. Not just the presence of Coltrane, but the B side of this record is terrific, starting with Paul’s Pal. I find myself in a weird position with this record — I have an original New York pressing that can use a condition upgrade, but I also have two New Jersey pressings in M- condition. An embarrassment of riches, I agree, but I’d still love an M- New York pressing. This one closes later today and is priced in the $225 range.
Hank Mobley and Lee Morgan, Peckin’ Time, Blue Note 1574. This is an original pressing that looks to be in VG+ condition for both the record and the cover. The current price is less than $200, but we’d expect it to sell for quite a bit more. I would love an original pressing of this LP — perhaps I should be offering up some of my doubles for trade. At this point, I have some great doubles, lots of Blue Notes and Prestiges. Oooh, perhaps I could finally get an original copy of Shades of Redd.
Here’s an interesting listing on eBay: The Fabulous Guitar of Bill Jennings, King 295-106. This is a 10-inch record in VG+ condition for both the record and the cover. One of the things that makes the listing interesting is the statement by the seller that this is the “most rare and collectible 10-inch jazz guitar LP EVER MADE.” That is quite a strong statement, although seller seems knowledgeable, he is also quite hyperbolic, talking about this being the rarest “in the history of mankind.” In any case, I’ve never heard of this LP, but I’m sure it’s quite collectible. I know there are many jazz guitar enthusiasts out there, including my friend Dan, so perhaps we can have some real perspective on this LP. This auction is closing later today, there is a start price of $1,500 and there are still no bidders.
I’ve also got an eye on this one, and a story goes with it: Sonny Clark, Sonny’s Crib, Blue Note 1576. This is an original pressing in what is probably VG+ condition for both the record and the cover. It closes in six days and the start price is around $800. The story that goes with it is that I just purchased an original pressing of this record and it is the cleanest copy I’ve ever seen. I’m quite pleased about that. There are other records that were part of this collection and, once I sort it all out, I will share some details. But the M- Sonny’s Crib was one of the highlights, that’s for sure.