A Visit to the Jazz Record Center

Thanks to everyone for the kind birthday wishes. For all of you hoping to experience the pursuit of a rare jazz record vicariously through my adventure yesterday . . . I have to disappoint, unfortunately. After a lovely lunch with with the young JCs — who treated, by the way — the lovely Mrs. JC and I headed to the Jazz Record Center with great hope and enthusiasm. We got there, I said a quick hello to Fred and then started perusing the bins. In the background I could hear Fred and Mrs. JC engaged in lively conversation. I worried briefly that she might be making a deal to sell my entire collection, but it was only a fleeting concern. I started with the new arrivals and was a bit disappointed when there was nothing there of interest to me. There was a nice original Bud Powell on Norgran, but I already own a copy. An Art Farmer on New Jazz, but it was a reissue. There were a couple of other decent records, but nothing that would really add to my collection. I then went around the store, bin after bin, in search of that one record that would commemorate the day. I went through the Mobleys, Morgans, McLeans . . . and Getz . . . Dexter . . . Blakey . . . Bird . . . Fats . . . maybe a nice 10-incher on Savoy, or even a Bird 78 on Dial? Alas, I didn’t find anything. But I had one last hope.

In my mind, I figured that somewhere in the back, not on the shelves, not open for public viewing, Fred had a reserve of old Blue Notes and Prestiges that he only pulled out for special occasions and special customers. Admit it — don’t you all think that way when you go to the Jazz Record Center: That this is the repository of great jazz records and, like a museum, all the great works pass through at some point? So, after going through all the bins I went back to Fred, who was still engaged in conversation with the lovely Mrs. JC, and asked if there was anything in the back rooms, or under the counter, or somewhere that he was holding back on. After all, this was a special occasion, right? He smiled kind of wanly and said there might be something, what did I have in mind? I figured I’d go for the gold, so I mentioned a couple of nice Blue Notes that I’ve always wanted but, for whatever reason, don’t have as original pressings: Freddie Redd, Shades of Redd and Paul Chambers, Bass on Top. Fred kind of chuckled at the mention of those records and the idea that he would just have them lying around somewhere in the store. “Those are pretty rare records,” he said, with a hint of incredulity, then a bit wistfully: “I wish I had them.”

So, in the end, I wound up purchasing the Blue Note book, a Mosaic boxed set and an EMI-Capitol Music edition of Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims, Blue Note 1530. This, I hope, is an upgrade of the United Artists pressing in my collection. It was not the score I was seeking, but it was fun going through the bins at the Jazz Record Center and seeing what was there and the pricing and the condition. It’s a great gauge of the market and the thing you learn, as you see on eBay, is that while the market for the high-end collectibles continues to go up, demand for what I would call mid-market collectibles is shrinking, meaning that prices are down. And, for records that are not collectible, you wonder if there is any demand at all. As we were heading out, the lovely Mrs. JC said she was disappointed I didn’t get my score, but quite pleased with our excursion because she had a lovely conversation with Fred, who she said  was warm and charming and quite engaging. I looked at her askance: “You didn’t, perchance, offer to sell him my collection, did you?” I asked.  She smiled and then laughed out loud. But, now that I think about it,  she never did answer the question.

21 Responses to “A Visit to the Jazz Record Center”

  1. ceedee Says:

    Hmm…I don’t know,Al. I’d keep an eye on them if I were you. And by “them”,of course,I mean your collection!(lol)


  2. Rudolf Says:

    I think you made a correct assessment of the market: those with huge collections of average material are sitting on a bunch of worthless vinyl and paper work.


  3. Mike Says:

    Al, At least you had a good day. How are you finding the the blue note book?


  4. Al Says:

    Mike — It was a great day, actually. Fred was an excellent host. I haven’t really sat down with the Blue Note book. Fred said he hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed because, after looking at it, I may realize, unfortunately, that I own fewer original pressings than I had originally thought. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.


  5. Mike Says:

    Al, it confirmed that two of mine were no longer originals and one was. The problem was one of the ones confirmed as not original was Lou Takes off. Pretty depressing. But 2 out of 100 is pretty good odds. I just wish I had the book 15 years ago.


  6. Michel Says:

    Quote : “that while the market for the high-end collectibles continues to go up, demand for what I would call mid-market collectibles is shrinking, meaning that prices are down”.

    No intention to be the “know it all”, but this was the scenario i imagined a few years ago. The trend was already there five or six years ago. Blue Note, Prestige, a hundred of titles from various other labels, and there you have the market nowadays.


  7. Michel Says:

    “In my mind, I figured that somewhere in the back, not on the shelves, not open for public viewing, Fred had a reserve of old Blue Notes and Prestiges that he only pulled out for special occasions and special customers”

    In the old days, most french record dealers used to do that. “special occasions” for them was in fact the visit of a japanese dealer, or buyer. I hate them for that since then, and praise Ebay fot having opened the shelves to every customer. But Fred is definitely NOT that kind of seller. He’s a gentleman.


  8. dottorjazz Says:

    it’s sad to record that ol’ jazz hunters can’t find a nice pick in a record shop anymore.
    ebay rules and shops are closing one after the other.
    I’m in New Orleans now and I’ll try some fortune down here.
    last summer Euclid opened his second spot here and I’ve read somewhere that they have so many records to be able to manage 6 or 7 shops.
    hope to be luckier than Al.
    I’ll let you know what I’ll find


  9. bill Says:

    The lack of market for mid-level and re-issue records is the same for all genres. It is the last area where the brick and mortar store has an advantage (such as it is)over the internet. You can still sell a used MCA Coltrane or a modern reissue of Sticky Fingers for $6, although not as many and not as fast. BTW I have been to those stores in Paris and LA with the “Back Rooms” and even believe my now defunct store had a lot to do with fostering this model. The difference is that most of these places do not price their back room and wait for you to pick out the goodies and then comment on how rare and expensive they are. I no longer play that game and refuse all invitations to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum. My store always had the prices clearly marked.


  10. duonri Says:

    As I said, Fred sells high-end records on eBay. Best way to get market price.


  11. jack Says:

    I haven’t bothered to visit JRC for that reason. Must be 10 years since my last visit. I often wonder what the point is of paying all that rent when he could just sell all the good stuff on EBAY and not bother with the low price stuff.


  12. Mike Says:

    I don’t know if this is Fred’s reason or not, but $10 records sell decently. And you probably aren’t paying a ton for them. So if you buy a collection of maybe a 3000 records, with %10 or so collectible and the rest being in the $5-$15 dollar range you need a place to sell those. I don’t go to Jazz Record Center looking for premium records, I go looking for things that I haven’t seen before and would not have thought to look for. That’s what I love about JRC, Euclid in New Orleans, Amoeba, etc. But I can empathise with Al, and everyone else who have gigantic collections and have been collecting since the 60s. They aren’t looking for quantity, but quality. Most days I’m not either, but I don’t live in a town with a record store of substance and have to drive an hour to get to New Orleans where there are a few(but nothing like JRC for Jazz). I prefer top tier collectibles and due to ebay have plenty of access, it’s the ability to shop for something that I never would have searched for on ebay that I like. If I could do it on a whim it would get old, but I can’t so I enjoy visiting big cities with nice record stores. And JRC is probably my favorite. Plus I enjoy talking to people like Fred, although this site and the people here keep me happy in that regard nowadays. I think there is still a place for second hand music stores, it’s just high volume long time collectors will show little interest. That’s what ebay and the internet is for. I’m with Michel in that it has made the market free and, to borrow what has become a cliche, the world flatter.


  13. ceedee Says:

    Very well stated,Mike. It’s good to remember the services that JRC provides(and Fred in particular)-discographical info at arm’s reach,jazz books(rare,foreign,newly released),art collectibles,framed photos from time to time,htf posters -and,yes-inexpensive compact discs from all over the world…that “kid in a candy store” vibe I get whenever I go there is part-memory(my own)of long-gone musicians,but mostly due to the work Fred has put in over the years. His love of jazz has inspired a renowned business that can bring a smile to the face of the most jaded collector(me..us?). And as any experienced “crate-digger” knows-you never can tell what might turn up in that next stack. Or,as we put it-”Uh…you mind if I look through that pile if you’re done with it?” (LOL)


  14. Marmarosa Says:

    Dear friends,

    If JRC it’s heaven for people who lives in Usa, who has opportunities to visit phisical records shops, imagine the experience for somebody like me who lives in Spain……
    I would like to ask for your help. Where can I find a guide to discover the original pressings of Prestige, Jazzland, New Jazz, Riverside…….?

    Best Regards.


  15. Al Says:

    To Bill — what store did you own? If you’re interested in writing a guest column about your experience with the store, please do.


  16. Mike Says:

    Marmosa, check out this thread we made here. . You have too read through it fairly well. It contains information that we collectively compiled.


  17. Katharsis Says:

    Al, I’m late, but I still wish you the best for a new year in your life.
    Marmarosa: I’m not sure, if there’s something about Jazzland.
    It’s easy for that label. First Mono-pressings have an orange label with a deep groove, Stereo-pressings have a black label with DG. At the bottom of the label you can read “Bill Grauer Productions New York”. After that, there were the same label constellations, but without a deep groove. And after that you may see the Orpheum-pressings, mostly on maroon labels. For some releases, there are OJC and french Carrere-pressings existing.


  18. Jason Says:

    Mike – well put!

    And $5 can still buy a lot. I picked up mint copies of “Go” on VJ by Paul Chambers and “Apperception” on Chancellor by Jimmy Wisner at a record show of all places for $5 each. Either the dealer didn’t know what he had, or didn’t care.


  19. Marmarosa Says:

    Thank’s Mike.

    I’ve watched you link, but I find it focused on Blue Note records.
    Any clue about Riverside, Prestige, Jazzland and New Jazz?


  20. Mike Says:

    Sorry Maramarosa,
    I like to the wrong thread. This is what we came up with for Prestige.
    100-214(10-inch)
    100-117(sketchy about 117)
    All should be DG, Blue Label, and the 754 10th Avenue New York NY address. Flat Edge
    118-214
    All should be DG, Blue Label, and the 446 W. 50TH ST. New York NY address. Flat Edge
    161 DG, Red and Silver Label, and the 446 W. 50TH ST. New York NY address. Flat Edge
    162-168
    All should be DG, Blue Label, and the 446 W. 50TH ST. New York NY address. Flat Edge
    169-197
    All should be DG, Red and Silver Label, and the 446 W. 50TH ST. New York NY address. Flat Edge
    198-214
    All should be DG, Yellow and Black Label, and the 446 W. 50TH ST. New York NY address. Flat Edge

    7000-7057, 7060, 7061, 7063
    DG, Yellow and Black Fireworks Label, No Spine Writing, and the 446 W. 50TH ST. New York NY address.

    7058-7059, 7062
    DG, Yellow and Black Fireworks Label, Spine Label, and the 446 W. 50TH ST. New York NY address.

    7064-7141
    DG, Yellow and Black Fireworks Label, Spine Label, and the 446 W. 50TH ST. New York NY address.

    7142-7258
    All should be DG, Yellow and Black Fireworks Label, Label on Spine, and the 203 South Washington Ave., Bergenfield, N.J

    7259 – 7320
    Not DG, Yellow and Black Fireworks Label, and the 203 South Washington Ave., Bergenfield, N.J

    7321 – ??
    Not DG, Blue Trident Label, and the 203 South Washington Ave., Bergenfield, N.J

    But there is more. There are other variations that are not covered, I just can’t document them do to lack of familiarity. Michel at one point volunteered to do one for Riverside. I know I’d love to see it.


  21. Katharsis Says:

    Marmarosa, I wrote something about Jazzland above.


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