Free Jazz for the $1,000 Bin

Ws-l1600ell, with Al manning the helm frequently in recent months, I haven’t popped in too much with observations of jazz records that are outside the “classic” era of collecting this music. But there have been quite a number of interesting eBay auctions and as with seemingly almost every kind of rare or semi-rare record, the prices keep on climbing.

Let’s start with the recent spate of avant-garde jazz records sold by a sometime commenter on the site, nobbyknucks. The cream of the crop was this 1972 LP by Philly vibraphonist Khan Jamal, Drum Dance to the Motherland. It was an original private pressing on the Dogtown label (Byard Lancaster; Sounds of Liberation) and sold for a whopping $1,705. The vinyl was listed in NM/VG++ condition and the economical, paste-on cover in VG+ condition with light wear. I’ve seen this record sell for a hefty price before but this took the cake. It’s a reverb-heavy, somewhat psychedelic-sounding record in the vein of Sun Ra’s post-1962 recordings, rather free but also groovy in spots, and easy to understand why people are after it.

Speaking of Sun Ra, the same seller got decent prices for a pair of rather well-used Saturns, Jazz in Silhouette and Super-Sonic Jazz. In VG++ or better condition these would probably have broken into the $1,000 bin with ease. However, it’s hard to sneeze at copies in “G” condition getting $461 and $385, respectively.

A little more in the realm of normalcy – or at least not super-sonic pricing – is this copy of Jeanne Lee’s Conspiracy, an all-star date of sorts in the loft-jazz realm, but rendered with captivating and unique lyricism. There were two pressings of this album, one released on Mait Edey’s Seeds label and the other on Lee’s own Earthforms imprint (I think the Earthforms is second). Graded at NM or M- for both the record and cover, this sharp example went for $316.

I’m not sure how many records are floating around with Albert Ayler’s signature and I can’t think that I’ve seen more than a couple in years of collecting, so this first commercial edition of Spiritual Unity on ESP is quite attractive in the sense of being a significant album with a significant autograph. However the condition leaves a little to be desired as both the record and cover are listed as VG (and the cover seems pretty worn). I can’t verify whether the personalized penmanship is Mr. Ayler’s but it seems a forgery would be unlikely, especially since it’s in pen and worn off about as much as the silkscreen printing. The seller had it as a Buy-It-Now for $1400 and there were no takers; maybe at $1300 someone will bite?

As always, happy bidding and happier listening!

11 comments

  • Clifford, you’re a man after my own heart- now I have a few more deep jazz sessions to look into thanks to you!

    Also that Ayler LP probably doesn’t sound so good if VG is a visual grade. ESP vinyl quality, meh.

  • I didn’t really get the sun ra supersonic price. It was second press cover. I remember paying 100 for that lp a year ago in vg++/vg++ . Good for the seller though. The khan Jamal record is beyond rare though so that makes sense

  • The “jazz in silhouette” is also a second cover. It’s a pipe dream of mine to have a nice original silk-screened original as it’s probably my favorite Ra LP, but it’s likely never to happen. I’ve paid close to 4 figures before for an album, but I don’t think I could bring myself to ever jump over into the $1000 field of play.

  • “Original silk screened cover” that should say

  • Ah thanks folks — I’m less up on Ra than other areas (not a huge fan).

  • Hi Clifford, great topic, thank you. As you know, Sun Ra was very popular in Europe and especially in Italy. I bought a few records at his concerts, but his discography is wide and difficult. I got several Saturns but my collector dream are some Ra records from mid to late 1960. I only saw one time in the hand of a collector titles like Angels and demons, Nubians, Bad and beautiful: I offered him really big money but he declined my offer.
    Ps: Roberto Castelli praised me to send you his best greetings

  • Clifford,

    Ra’s discography is infamously challenging in its sheer volume, I can’t imagine more than a few folks have a handle on it. I think its over 250 releases?

  • Stefano me too..I’d love to have more early Saturns in my collection. I have around 15 or so but mainly from 70s and early 80s. Just a few earlier ones..my gem is a NM blue label “we travel the spaceways” bought off a fellow contributor here Lennib.

  • Hi Mark, collecting Sun Ra could be a kind of nightmare. I was able to put my hands on Silhouette (sci-fi cover), We travel, Visits planet Earth, Strange strings, Continuation and Futuristic sounds: a collector sold me his entire Ra collection in nm conditions. The Ra albums from 70s/80s (with some exceptions) often come for sale here in Italy: Ra played several times, he was much requested at the jazz festivals. So, record shops always had a little Ra discography. Anyway, when I saw the other Saturns I tried to offer a big sum but the owner told me: not for sale!!!

  • I understand Stefano! For example I’ve owned three different pressings of “the magic city” until I finally now have a mono pressing with textured paste on cover which even then I’m not 100% if it’s true first issue or not!!

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