Give Me Liberty . . . For a Lot of Money

Here’s a few items from the Jazz Collector in box, starting with a note from our friend CeeDee, who is commenting that “it looks like the cost of some Liberty pressing Blue Notes are approaching the price of the originals,” with a bunch of links, including Kenny Burrell, Blue Lights, Blue Note 1597. Not only is this a Liberty pressing, the cover, with the Andy Warhol illustration, is only on VG condition. This one sold for $255, which is quite a change in the market over the past few years. The other big change in the market is the tremendous spike in prices of the United Artists Blue Notes, which were 1980s reissues for the Japanese market. Unfortunately, I sold a lot of my Liberty and United Artists pressings a few years ago on eBay, generally for $10 or $20 apiece, which was the going rate at the time. Fortunately, however, the reason I sold those pressings was because I was able to obtain copies of the originals and these were just duplicates.

Also in the inbox was a link to this record: Lionel Hampton, Jazztime Paris, Blue Note 5046. This was an original pressing from the Jazz Record Center. The record looked to be M- and the cover was probably VG++. It sold for $1,009, joining the $1,000 bin. Who wouldda ever thunk it: Lionel Hampton in the $1,000 bin. The power of Blue Note persists no matter what, it seems.

I have a few other updates while I am cleaning out the Jazz Collector inbox, including:

This year’s WFMU Record Fair is over and the dates for next year’s are now available: April 27-April 29 at the Brooklyn Expo Center again. I didn’t hear from anyone about this year’s show. Did anybody go? Want to send a report? You can put a comment on this post or, if you are really game, you can send me a more detailed account and I can put it up as a guest post.

This looks like a really cool new vinyl release: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane: The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings. It’s a vinyl issue, and I can’t wait to get my copy. Once I do, I will do a review as well, although that will have to wait: Heading out later today for a brief holiday, which may or may not affect my posting. Although, to be fair, my posting has been anything but consistent lately, due to a super heavy workload in the work that actually pays the mortgages around here.

23 comments

  • I went to WFMU this year — been enjoying it the last couple of years. Spent only about 2 hours on Saturday, bought a bunch of nice records from the few sellers I knew I wanted to hit, spent a good chunk of change, saw some friends, and got out with time to spare. Last year I lingered a lot more as I had some buddies in town; this year it was more of a shopping experience.

    Will definitely grab the Monk/Trane Riverside set. I’ve been bowled over on repeated listening to the Monk Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 LPs and that seems to have reignited a love for Monk’s music… which was always in the listening lexicon, but had retreated to a surface level for the last several years.

  • I’m really confused about the liberty pressing Blue Notes. Why would those be worth more than lets say the Classic Records reissue which, although also a reissue, has more of the look/feel of an original. People are strange.

  • Gregory the Fish

    I forgot all about WFMU this year, and I could have kicked myself when I realized. 🙁

  • Clifford Allen

    I used to come into the city and hit it fairly often. Moving here a few years ago, I recall one being cancelled in the last few years because of the hurricane and another I missed because of the flu. The days of “great deals” are mostly gone but still happen from time to time.

  • Clifford, if you don’t mind sharing, I’m interested in what a lifetime collector/connoisseur seeks out and purchases at a big show. For noobs like myself, I’m interested in your purchases as they relate to the evolution of a global jazz record collector over the years. Thanks!

  • Daryl, for me it’s a matter of finding clean copies of things that I’d like to check out, as well as records I’ve never heard of/seen before. That runs the gamut from jazz and free jazz to psychedelia, post-punk, 20th century composers, ethnographic field recordings, folk, prewar blues, and whatever else. I tend to stumble into things that I’m not actively seeking as much as someone might have a title I’m after.

  • Clifford, that sounds like me at a record show. I was (mildly) hoping that you had a grocery list of items, titles I’d hoped to glean, that you waved in the air while running from booth to booth in a frenzied passion. I knew from your posts that your interests ran deeply into free and over-the-pond jazz. I thought your record show purchases were limited to that. Hmm… okay, as a Minnesotan, have you met Milo Fine and/or Blue Freedom’s New Art Transformation? It is the Midwest’s free jazz you’ve been missing! 🙂

  • Gregory The Fish

    Daryl,

    I haven’t been at it for as long as Clifford, but I find that while a mental checklist is a good thing, the best strategy for finding good records and having a good time at a shop or record show is just to dig. I’d say I find a record I had specifically in mind about one time for every 50 times i find a record i didn’t have specifically in mind, but decided to take home and became very pleased about.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    From the very beginning of my buying LPs starting in 1950, I let serendipity be my guide. I have never compiled a shopping list nor had one in my head because if I list it, I am not likely to find it! It’s like putting a curse on a given record. Also, by listing a record, you may find it takes years or decades before you find it in the right condition and at the right price. When you do find it, it’s a happy surprise, and experiencing “happy surprises” is part of the fun of record shopping! If you ever shop in Ameoba Music in San Francisco, don’t just look at the stuff in the bins but look below the bins where you may find some real treasures for under two bucks.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    P.S. It took some years before I began keeping a record of all my record and jazz-book purchases. I use a three-ring binder with yellow lined paper (just like in school). As a heading, I put the date and from whom I bought the record(s). Each entry beneath is alphabetical by artist, followed by LP title, label, and catalog number. In the column to the left of the artist’s name, I put the price paid for the record (not including tax). This way, I keep track of everything I buy. Having recorded thousands of listings, I am now on my fourth binder. From time to time, I enjoy going through the listings as a history of my collecting and to familiarize myself with my collection so I can hopefully not buy an unwanted duplicate copy.

  • @Daryl, nah, I don’t keep a real list anymore though my Discogs is full of “Gee I’d like to check that out someday” things in my quote-unquote wantlist, little of which I actually tick off properly. Buying records gotten much more haphazard since I started in the mid-/late-90s. Like, I met Jill McManus a few years ago and then bought “Symbols of Hopi” because she seemed like a really nice person and I wanted to hear more of her music. Or, someone will recommend an album to me and I’ll buy it given the trust of a recommender and that may be a $10 record or a $100+ record.

    Back to FMU, I was hoping to re-buy Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance but then forgot and probably passed by 20 tables with copies. Oops. I did see a copy of Michael Garrick’s October Woman (which I’d love to have on LP) but it looked absolutely wrecked… I did get the first Al Stewart LP on CBS though. And Ray Stephen Oché “No Discrimination” on Esperance, which is a very bright album. Last year someone shoved the Karel Krautgartner “Boleraz, Boleraz” LP into my hands and I’d never heard of it — easily one of my best FMU purchases over the years.

    And yeah, I’ve corresponded with Milo and have several of his early albums (as well as a couple more recent CDs). I lived in Minneapolis for only about a year and a half in the early 00’s and didn’t get out much. Weird times.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    For newcomers to jazz record collecting, I would suggest looking at the Swedish website, Birka Jazz Album Covers (just key in birka covers). It displays a fantastic array of jazz vinyl covers that includes U.S. labels (Prestige, Riverside, Blue Note, Norgran, Columbia, etc.) plus dozens of European labels organized by country. Blue Note covers are well represented. Many are gorgeous works of art that invite being framed. Looking at Birka covers is a great way to keep the look of a particular cover in mind when shopping Ebay or a record show!

  • Clifford Allen

    yeah, agreed, although their Japanese section needs a lot of work.

  • Over the past year and a half (and with the research help of a lot of great resources, first and foremost this very website), I’ve acquired a lot of Liberty Blue Notes…in Stereo. It’s probably 4 or 5 to 1 in terms of Mono for a ratio of what I have in my collection. I’ve had some plans to start selling it on Ebay soon, and I’m going to be quite curious to what it fetches. I have no doubt I’ll make my money back and then some, but some of the things I found recently are just crazy. I didn’t think I’d ever see them on Mono, let alone in Stereo.

  • The prices these BN’s are getting is just silly. Half the time, I don’t even like the BN music, and when I do, I find these so far out of my reach I don’t even bother contemplating a BN. I mean, when a record that isn’t even rare costs more than my entire stereo configuration, it’s time to shift focus. Personally, I like digging much better than auction watching, and I am always amazed I can find a valued record for less than $10, and when I mean a “valued record”, I am talking about my own personal holy grails. I find searching for Modes, Liberty, Riverside and Tampa labels gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and in these rarified times, that is as good as it gets.

  • Agreed. My new rule of bidding thumb is that for anything in my presumed price range, it will close for twice of my max bid. I seem to be accurate 80% of the time.

  • I’ve personally found some solace in the absurdity that Blue Note prices have been reaching online. Many of the BN records I’ve amassed over the years were later pressings or OGs in less than great condition, and are now going for collectible prices on eBay. That certainly helps decision making when an opportunity to upgrade comes around. And when I do come across a clean Liberty (or even UA) of a collectible title at a decent price, I jump on it. Most of the time I’ll auction it for 3-5 times as much and finance records I really want that way.

    Re: WFMU, I went for early bird on Friday and for the last 2 hours on Sunday. Ran into sellers I knew, met some nice folks, and picked up a few nice pieces I’d been searching for. I also bought a decent amount of 2nd or 3rd pressings and some rougher OGs of records I already own or am not too interested in. Of the 30 or so records I got, I sold over 20 the following week, practically hedging the cost of the few I really wanted to keep. I’ve lost track of how many UAs or Coltranes on Impulse I’ve found for $15-20 and sold for closer to $50 in the past few years, but they start adding up when you’re going after clean original 1500’s and 4000s.

    So (at least for me) there’s fun to be had digging for records one already owns and appreciates. And it definitely can’t hurt to be thrifty when embracing such an expensive hobby!

  • geoffrey wheeler

    Thomas, you do what my son-in-law does. He shops stores, flea markets, and estate sales, and sells what he does not personally want. He does quite nicely with the re-sales. Thus, he finances record buys he wants with no out-of-pocket expense. I have only personally sold a few records: Charlie Parker with Strings ($100), a mint four-disc set of Prestige bootlegs on the Misterioso label ($150), an unknown 78 aircheck of Basie and Lester Young ($100), and a 78 E+ 1926 copy of Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orch. with Louis Armstrong: Static Strut/Stomp Off, Let’s Go ($950).

  • geoffrey wheeler

    The Misterioso label mentioned above consists of four 12-inch bootleg LPs of recordings by Wardell Gray, Leo Parker, Al Haig, and others, with complete sessions from a well-known American jazz label, including alternate takes. The masters were taken to Italy where unequalized pressings were made. They were then sleeved and sold as such to another company in another country where they were put in printed jackets. To my knowledge, they have never been advertised and are not listed in any discographies for the respective artists. The sound is fine.

  • RE: Blue Note Liberty Pressings.

    Are the high prices for Liberty- VanGelder pressings, and are sellers making a distinction between VanGelder and non RVG pressings ?

    How much of the phenomena may be due to new buyers responding to “Blue Note” without understanding pressing history ?

    As a practical matter, is there any audible difference between a NY Plastilyte and non “P” pressing of the same title in the same condition, assuming both are RVG ?

    I have long held the opinion that a clean later pressing often sounds much better than a poor first pressing. I have had great luck in acquiring mint Liberty pressings that sound wonderful. But I also agree that a clean first pressing possesses an audible quality that is hard to duplicate in later (re)pressings.

  • And a followup- Are the high prices for NY labeled Liberty reissues, or across all Liberty blue white pressings ? Also the linked Kenny Burrell is from a notable seller and includes the following in the description: “rvg, ear” If this is a Liberty pressing, why is an ear present ?

  • The “ear” mentioned in that Kenny Burrell auction must be a typo or left over from a template.

  • rl1856 – The classic Blue Note “Sound” was created and refined through the years by Rudy Van Gelder. If you listen to the first NY non “P” sequentially they have the same RVG mastered ambience. I’ve compared original Mono DG 63rd St titles to their Mono Liberty “fake” 63rd St pressings that have a RVG stamp and the audio quality was far better than the later non RVG Mono United Artists releases. You just can’t go wrong with the Rudy Van Gelder stamp of approval.

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