Blue Notes and Monk at 100

Thanks to Daryl and to all the thoughtful, and not so thoughtful (just kidding), commenters on the previous post. Given how sporadically I’ve been posting lately, it’s nice to get some other voices involved. I do have a full complement of jazz records in my eBay watch list, so I will share some of the more interesting items, starting with Lee Morgan, Volume 3, Blue Note 1557. This was an original West 63rd New York 23 pressing that was listed in M- condition for the record and perhaps just a shade below M- for the cover. There were 21 bidders and 37 bids and a final price of $3,629 that jumped from $2,000 in the final seconds. This is not the highest price we’ve seen for this record, according to Popsike, which recorded a copy selling for $4,177 last year. Still, it’s way up there. Brings to mind a note I received from one of our readers last week, linking to a recent article about million-dollar comic books and wondering why, jokingly, the recent Lee Morgan documentary didn’t have a similar impact. Well, we’re not yet in the millions, but our jazz records are definitely on the rise. Plus, we get to listen to what we collect, not just look at it, although looking at it is cool too, as was well discussed in the prior post.

I missed out on this one: Sonny Red, Out of the Blue, Blue Note 4032. This looked to be an original West 63rd Street pressing. I couldn’t get a good read on the condition. On the one hand, the seller described it as “Beautiful!” “Excellent!” and “VG++”; on the other hand, where there was an actual place to list the condition, it was VG+ for both the record and the cover. The pictures certainly looked nice and the final price was just $338. Hey, if all the descriptions were over the top and the record and cover were still just VG+, that would be a fine price for a fine record and one that I would have been happy to have paid, given my sad history with this record, having owned a mint copy years ago and trading it for a record of lesser value, lesser music and lesser everything. I blame it on my youth.

Here’s a nice 10-incher: Thelonious Monk Trio, Thelonious, Prestige 142. This was an original pressing listed in VG++ condition for the record and VG for the cover. The seller insists he grades without flaw and thus does not accept returns, so there is some risk involved. This one sold for $300, with a single bidder. It so happens that today is the 100th birthday of Thelonious, so I think we should all put a Monk record on the turntable and wallow in admiration of his his unique genius. I think I’m going to go for Criss Cross on Columbia, or maybe The Unique on Riverside, or maybe the one with Sonny Rollins on Prestige, or maybe, just maybe, all of the above. How about you?






  • monk is one of a few artists, perhaps just three or four, to which the dictum of “complete” is important. every sound he ever recorded is essential and brilliant as far as i know. if he burped and a mic was on, i want to hear that burp. it was probably a brilliant burp. i’m only partially kidding.

    few others come to mind. perhaps coltrane, perhaps. maybe mingus. i’m hard pressed to think of any others that i literally cherish every recorded sound by.

  • Agree GTF. I’d say definitely Mingus and you forgot Dolphy 😉

  • Monk’s Music on Riverside. That’s the one. Plus, he’s in a wagon, because of course he is.

  • Pretty much any Monk, but I have a particular fondness for “Alone in San Francisco”, “Monk’s Dream” and the Gerry Mulligan record

  • I think the Sonny Red would have fetched considerably more had the seller included “blue note” in the listing title…

  • My favorite is Well You Needn’t on the Monks Music (Riverside) l.p. I absolutely cherish his vocal performance… “Coltrane,Coltrane” I wish he recorded more vocals !!! Always pop, skip and hiss. Art

  • I actually really like the Thelonious Monk Trio record you mentioned above – I have the LP version. “Bye-ya” and “Little Rootie Tootie” are two of my favorite tracks off that album. Also, Thelonious Monk Plays the Music of Duke Ellington and the recording he made with Gerry Mulligan are two other personal favorites.

    Agreed that the seller might have received a higher price if they mentioned ‘Blue Note’ in the listing title; probably more useful to bidders anyway than taking up space with ‘Beautiful!’ but ah well…I have an earless copy of Out of the Blue with 47 W 63rd St labels that sounds nice enough to me so probably won’t look to upgrade it anytime soon. Killer album for sure.

  • gst: yes, dolphy definitely goes on the list.

  • My go too Monk tracks are The man I love take 1 and 2 with Miles for the banter about where to come in and the lesson Miles gets from Monk in take 2. Brilliant Corners with a growling Rollins , Straight no chaser from Five by Five with its wonderful swaggering rhythm and such piano that grabs your attention throughout . The Newport set from 1963 with Pee Wee Russell’s chewing gum solos. The 2 versions of Rhythm-a-ning on Two hours with Thelonious and finally Lulu’s back in town from It’s Monks Time.
    Any thoughts on the best drummer with Monk. Many critics have thought Blakey but I would go for Frankie Dunlop , he is Monk playing drums to me.

  • …….old school I know but Ben Webster does it for me in the cherish department……..

  • I am also partial to “Monk’s Music”. Just look who is on this LP. Amazing Septet.
    One other thing , and I don’t know if the rest of you have had the same experience but I have come across The Unique Thelonious Monk , Riverside 12-209 , Original White Label pressing many times in my collecting days. All the copies I have seen / come across are super nice quality. Like not played basically. Is this just a fluke or have others seen this also ?

  • Joseph – ummm, please keep me in mind the next time you see a flawless copy of that (I might just be first in line of many with that request!)

  • definitely, put me on the list after bobh!

  • Regarding the Monk “Unique” Riverside album, Joseph, you don’t say which of the album covers you come across. For those who may not know, there are two styles of covers. One shows a photo of Monk across the bottom half of the front cover, with typography in the upper half. The second cover is totally different and features a large facsimile of a U. S. postage stamp with a profile illustration of Monk’s head and “33 and 1/3” where the price would usually be. To promote the record, Riverside had blocks of stamps printed up and gave them away to people. The promotion came to a quick halt when the FBI contacted Riverside and told them people were using the stamps on actual mail. Ken Braren, who designed the cover and the stamps, gave me a block of six stamps framed and signed. According to designer, Paul Bacon, who employed Ken as his assistant designer, Ken never signed ANYTHING, making this one-off totally unique! Ken passed away several years ago, as did Paul in 2015. Through their mother, Ken and his two brothers (still living) are related to Bix Beiderbecke.

    So far, nobody has mentioned the Mosaic “Complete Blue Note Recordings of Thelonious Monk” (Mosaic MR4-101), the first box set issued on the new label. This marvelous set includes a number of previously unissued takes. The booklet includes a complete Monk discography covering his entire career. When Monk was part of a JATP West Coast concert tour in the 1940s, he was listed in newspaper reports as “Felonious” Monk.

    Monk was said to be very particular about how the studios wanted to photograph him for covers. Using the red wagon for the “wagon” cover was Harris Lewine’s idea. For whatever reason, the wagon was already in the studio. Reluctantly, Monk agreed to pose sitting in the wagon. This was told to me by Ken Braren. I knew both Ken and Paul but not Harris Lewine.

  • Geoffrey – amazing story behind that second cover. I know there are some who are not a fan but I found the second cover to be quite ingenious myself. I do not know the answer for sure, but I think Joseph mentioned first pressing Riverside copies with the white labels. Were those first pressings ever issued with the second cover before? Again, not really sure so any insights would be useful to me too.

    Also, the cover of Monk in the wagon is priceless and makes me laugh every time I see it.

  • the story behind the wagon as told in rdg kelley’s monk bio is even funnier!

  • Bobh812, I don’t recall if my copy of the Monk Unique stamp cover has a white label. The album is packed away in storage. I agree: The stamp design is ingenious! The reason a stamp was chosen as a cover design may stem from the fact that Bill Grauer was a high-end stamp collector specializing in the stamps of the European African colonies. Grauer died while having coitus with a Japanese woman. He was so heavy, she couldn’t push his dead body off her and had to wait for emergency help to arrive. According to my source, Grauer had a preference for Oriental ladies. While he was chasing them, his wife was having an affair with another man.

  • The cover of the Monk “Misterioso” Riverside album features a copy of de Chirico’s 1915 painting, “The Seer.” Riverside did not get de Chirico’s permission prior to using the image. Either he or his attorney contacted Riverside about the painting’s use. Fortunately for Riverside, de Chirico liked jazz and thus allowed Riverside to use it without compensation.

  • To be fair, the seller had a 14 day return policy, he was saying he’s so good at grading that he doesn’t get returns. Over the summer on ebay there was an old DJ selling the Monk stamps, and I got four. Neato.

  • Sorry for late reply. The LP I was addressing is The LP that shows a B&W photo of Monk across the bottom half of the front cover, with typography in the upper half. I personally have never had a stamp cover in my hand but have seen it online. That was a interesting story about the covers Geoffrey.
    I also have to point out , as we all know , that grading is somewhat subjective and I should say I have come across “very nice copies” of this LP. Maybe it’s just a fluke thing way up here in Toronto…….

  • Congrats Junius on getting four Monk stamps! Those are nice to have. I forgot to mention the FBI actually paid a visit to the Riverside office about the stamps. If I recall correctly, Tony Bennett was visiting at the time the FBI showed up. He was friends with one or more of the people at Riverside.

  • I think the seller of that Monk lp hurt himself by not accepting returns. I recently had a nice sale of a 10″ Monk which sold for an excellent price. I don’t think I would have had such attractive bids if I refused to accept returns. Accepting returns is an important consideration for me when bidding as well. Grading is so subjective and as a seller you have to be open to disappointed buyers even if your grading is conservative.

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