Free Jazz Cracking the $2,000 Bin on eBay

There was a time not all that long ago when obscure records with relatively abrasive – or at least not for the feint of heart – musical content didn’t break the bank or require a second mortgage on one’s house. This was even the case for the first several years of online record buying, when private-press free jazz LPs were, though rare, not a matter of renegotiating one’s financial well-being to obtain. Well, that period has been officially over for a while now, but nevertheless the hits keep coming and new price points are reached. Take, for example, the lone LP by the Black Unity Trio, Al-Fatihah, on their own Salaam imprint. It’s a scarce and in demand post-Ayler document out of Cleveland, Ohio featuring an early appearance of cellist/bassist Abdul Wadud, along with saxophonist Yusuf Mumin (of the Norman Howard group) and drummer Haasan Al-Hut. Most copies I’ve run across look like they’d been run over by a skateboard and tossed into a puddle. This one was better, with a grade of VG++ for the vinyl and probably a strong VG for the matte white cover. Nevertheless, $2,355 is nearly double the next highest price in the internet marketplace and there was a time several years ago when $400-$500 was a healthy number for this album. Not anymore!

Another non-deal is this LP from Japan, which I’m quite fond of but $999.99 seems a bit on the high side. Seikatsu Kojyo Iinkai was begun by pianist-reedist Yoriyuki Harada and saxophonist Kazutoki “Kappo” Umezu, and as a group ranged from trio to orchestra over the ensuing years. Their privately-pressed first LPwas recorded in 1975 during the height of the loft jazz years and also features three American players: bassist William Parker, trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, and drummer Rashid Sinan. The copy on offer here, sans obi, is autographed by Umezu and appears to be in nice condition for the record (M-) and the jacket is a solid, spotty VG+ or VG++. Apparently Abdullah had a couple boxes of dead stock several years ago and they were accidentally thrown out in a move. Oh well!

I’m not sure if it came up somewhere in the comments on the recent Esquire post, but the question of alternate European edition Blue Note sleeves is an interesting one. I’d never seen anything from the classic era but did know that Blue Note licensed at least a few titles from Vogue (Fats Sadi, among others). Apparently this went the other way as well, judging by a Vogue UK 10″ pressing of the Elmo Hope Quintet, which I’d never encountered and which vinyl-house-uk, the seller of some fine Esquires and other titles recently, is offering. So far it’s not getting stratospheric (and presumably won’t) but my curiosity has been piqued. With a VG++ sleeve and NM- record and a price at $22.50 someone might get a deal after the auction is up next week.

Finally, in trawling eBay for semi-odd releases, I came upon this one, which not coincidentally is one of my favorite jazz records of all time: trumpeter Alan Shorter’s Parabolic LP, recorded in 1968 and released on Verve/Polydor UK under this title and in the US as Orgasm. Presumably the English record buying public weren’t ready for the latter concept (not that Americans were either, though Frank Zappa might’ve prepared some). The record features Shorter’s knotty originals played by saxophonist Gato Barbieri, bassists Charlie Haden or Reggie Johnson, and either Muhammad or Rashied Ali on drums. This M- copy is holding at $44 with half a day to go, and presumably will nudge closer to $75 or so by the auction’s end.

At any rate, thanks for reading this far, and as always happy collecting and happier listening!


  • Clifford, always enjoy your posts. True about recent atmospheric valuations of the private/limited pressings of “out” Jazz material. “One never knows. do one?”
    Not that surprised re Black Unity Trio lp. As I said before, it’s s fine example of the genre and the cold despair of the times. Having said that, from a financial point, wish I would have kept a few copies for now. Had 4, have one left.

  • Clifford, regarding the 10″ Elmo Hope on U.K. Vogue: Blue Note had a deal with Vogue, Paris concerning French Vogue recordings to be issued in the US (Clifford Brown, Sadi, Lionel Hampton). Vogue had obtained to issue US material (4 Dixieland and 8 Modern Jazz-Miles, Elmo Hope, Silver, Gil Mellé, J.J. to name a few). The deal expired when 10″ records became obsolete. Vogue U.K. in turn became part of the programme.

  • 4 copies?! Dang. And thanks for the Vogue update, I was unaware of the modern titles being licensed.

  • I’ve got a copy of that 10″ Elmo Hope on Vogue. Time to give it a long overdue dig-out.

    The Shorter LP in its original title would probably have caused it to be hidden behind the record shop counter and served in brown paper bags ?

  • Speaking of vinyl-house-uk, they have a number of premium titles on eBay, including … dare I say it … the Mobley BN1568 from a few years ago. Apparently, the deal with the buyer fell through (maybe a long term payment plan?). I’m thinking $10K should snag it. Any takers? I was thinking of trying to “steal” it with a $7K bid. Kidding. 🙂

  • But I can buy the CD of 1568 for like $10…why would anyone pay thousands of dollars for an old record? I don’t get it??

  • Yes, Clifford, back in the day in Chicago, I was hunting this stuff. Picked up a lot of “out” Jazz, because it was “out.” Of the four copies of Black Unity Trio I had, only one was in barely playable shape. Still my fave.
    Enjoy reading posts of the European “out” Jazz records. That’s a whole new world for me then looks like price wise I discovered too late.

  • Lenni I got lucky with my copy of the Black unity…the cover was sorta dirty and the vinyl too so I got it for less then $200. After I cleaned the vinyl on a friends VPI it turned out to be nearly NM! There were no scratches on it just lots of dust and fingerprints.

  • Clifford, I had a $66 bid on the Alan Shorter almost increased it when I read your post saying it would go around $75. I have a beat up copy I need to upgrade and really love the UK cover.

  • The Elmo Hope Quintet on Esquire record was not a Blue Note release. It was released in the US as Hope Meets Foster on Prestige.

  • Steven: I don’t think anybody mentioned an Elmo Hope Quintet on Esquire. Under discussion was an Elmo Hope Quintet on 10″ Vogue (ex Blue Note).
    There is a 12″ Esquire album though, “Wail Frank, Wail”, ex Prestige 7021 “Hope meets Foster”..

  • @Sean, so did you win it? Guess my prediction was about right (for once).

    wonder why the Black Unity Trio is always torched?

  • Gregory the Fish


    I don’t spend that kind of money, but original pressings are fun to have. No harder than that!

  • Al- That was a nice guess, you were only off by $1.50 on your $75 guess for final bid on Parabolic!

  • Gregory my tongue was firmly planted in cheek when I made that comment 😉

  • Why has it taken 2 years for the Mobley sale to not complete?

  • is that the same $9000 Mobley? ha!

  • For the Mobley BN1568, the posting notes that the buyer didn’t complete the transaction. There was some speculation this was a trade for a larger collection. Or it was a long term payment plan that fell through. It remains a mystery, until disclosed by vinyl-house-uk.

  • Clifford, I was outbid on the Alan Shorter but the highest bidder just cancelled because he did not realize it was the Orgasm LP. Got the second chance buy and grabbed it.

  • Clifford, in one case, I got a copy of Black Unity Trio from a REAL intense cat who was very politically active during those times and played the record to extremes. It was a strong musical statement and an lp that didn’t get mass market distribution and as such ran through the underground. Another copy I got came from a former member of a communal group, so to speak,, and this,while looking trashed, did manage to clean up and play quite well.

  • FYI Vinyl House is the same seller than some how etched a deep groove in a Japanese press and tried to pass it off as OG. They are pretty shady IMO

  • I remember that; I agree it puts up red flags for me with this seller…

  • Anders Wallinder

    Also Vinyl-House refurbishes record covers. It’s not a secret with them and they got some good results for sure according to their website.

    I don’t say its bad but if I buy an expensive original pressing I would like to know if it’s been restored or not.

  • It’s the self-righteous flannel of Vinyl-House that puts me off.

  • I would guess that the more rare and poignant a record is, like Black Unity Trio, the more it was played and borrowed out by like minded individuals, hence years of use and abuse on the disc.

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