Here Are Jazz Collectibles You Won’t See Every Day

test-pressing-jazz-vinyl-a-love-supremeTwo of our regular readers, Clifford and Michael, separately sent me links to this rare jazz collectible, wondering if it was legitimate: John Coltrane, A Love Supreme, Impulse A-77, Test Pressing. Take a close look at it. Does it really say “Ken” Coltrane? Anyway, it looks legit to me. Unfortunately, it was only in VG condition and, of course, it didn’t have a cover. The final price was $300, which seems pretty reasonable to me for what I imagine is a pretty rare collectible.

One of our readers, Dave Sockel, recently was in touch with a relative of Duke Pearson and sent me a PDF of this very cool collectible — duke-pearson-session-book-1969-1970. It includes rehearsals, musicians and their fees, session dates, comments on the sessions and dozens of signatures from the various musicians, confirming their payments. Thanks to Dave for sharing and allowing me to post this on Jazz Collector.

Meanwhile, back on eBay, here are some of the records we’ve been watching, starting with Art Taylor, Taylor’s Tenors, New Jazz 8219. This looks to be an original purple label deep groove mono pressing. The record was listed in VG+ condition, as was the cover. The final price was $319.

Tina Brooks, True Blue, Blue Note 4041. This was also an original pressing, also listed in VG+ condition for both the record and the cover. It sold for $1,754.99.

Sonny Rollins Plays, Period 120. This was an original pressing listed in Ex condition for both the record and the cover. It sold for $890. Let me reiterate my personal philosophy on records such as these — ones that I don’t own and would fill in major gaps in my collection. As much as I would like to own this record, I will typically not pay top dollar on eBay. I don’t begrudge anyone willing to pay top dollar and, in fact, I am glad that they are setting the market. I have every other Rollins collectible from the era, and I have a reissue of this record. So if I want to listen to Rollins, I have plenty to listen to. And, if I want to hear this music, I can do that as well. I feel fortunate that I don’t have that particular form of obsessive gene that requires me to own every original pressing of every record I want. There are days when the urge is very strong, but then I look at my collection and am typically quite content with what I have. I’ve waited 45 years of collecting to get some of the nicer records in my collection. My feeling is, I can wait longer for the rest. But that’s just me.

28 comments

  • The date places this copy in the transition period from plastic to vinyl. Plastic was hard and chipped easily with the hard styli used in those days. Plastic also picked up a lot of static electricity, making for a lot of hiss noise, and it is almost impossible to permanently get rid of. Vinyl is much softer and wears more quickly. With the number of copies pressed very low and the number of people that would need to listen to a ‘final’ copy, it is no wonder that the quality of this copy would be low.

  • terry, you’re talking about the ALS test pressing, right? that’s interesting… you mean test pressings were usually done on plastic?

    speaking of Dave S, i have purchased ten or so records from him on eBay in the last year and been very pleased each and every time with the reasonable prices and accurate grading. a top notch seller, and very friendly. shout-out to him.

  • The Duke Pearson notebook is fantastic. Really see how the sausage was made. Organized guy, very impressive.

  • Recognized that lineup in the Pearson notebook from Herbie Hancock’s album, “The Prisoner.” All the other sessions have names I recognize but not familiar with which albums.

    Looking forward to more gems from the Pearson archives!

  • That Duke Pearson log is sweet. I hope they are able to find a proper repository for the materials.

    After sending the Coltrane test pressing link to Al and mulling it over, I’m actually not all that surprised that it only went for $300. Seems like it was pretty worn and without the iconic cover art, probably wasn’t as attractive to the bulk of classic jazz buyers. The only test pressings I recall doing significant wallet damage were some of the Plastylite Blue Notes that didn’t see proper issue until the 1980s.

  • Is condition even a factor when it comes to test pressing? Shouldn’t a test pressing of love supreme be in a museum? I personally think 300 is a steal.

  • I have a bunch of reissues that sound awesome. Some of the Japanese pressings (King, Toshiba…) sound stellar and even some of the new reissues sound great! It’s always my preference to have an early pressing but I leave the eBay bidding wars to the folks that have money to burn. I kinda believe that the yuppies will eventually get tired and the prices will drop. May take a few years and hopefully I’ll be around!!

  • For me the Sawano reissues are the best.

  • Gregory,

    Yes, the ALS test. In that time period, the material used was based on two criteria, the first being what equipment the studio was using, and second what raw material – vinyl or plastic – was available. Equipment is/was important as most machines would only do one material or the other, not both.

  • If I owned that test pressing of A Love Supreme, I would frame it and hang it on the wall, not listen to it.

  • terry, fascinating! neat info to know. i would have guessed they were just all vinyl at that time, since that’s how the consumer would be listening.

    Al, i’m with you 100%, especially since i have a nice original copy already. love the “ken” too. what’s up with that.

  • Gregory,

    Fantasy Records used plastic for their red and blue colored releases until late-October/early-November 1965. I have no reliable data for other companies, but I believe that was the end of the use of plastic.

  • Thanks guys for the comments on the Duke Pearson notebook. I analyzed and will post a listing of the various records that were generated from all these sessions.

    The bulk of the archive was hundreds of pictures from Duke’s life and a plethora of royalty check stubs and Grammy ballots. There was also an interesting set of letters between him and Freddie Hubbard regarding an album that they were doing for Jazz Time/Jazzline. Jazzline 33-04 was never released on the label but instead was put out 10 years later by Prestige. In subsequent research it appears that Duke was none too pleased with how this was handled by Fred Norsworthy of JT/JL which I interpreted to mean the tapes were sold off without his approval or any royaltys.

  • 33-03, the Willie Wilson record, was also issued by Fontana (NL) in the late 1960s under “Freddy” Hubbard’s name as “Groovy.” Though online discographies seem to indicate 33-04 was issued as “Dedication” on Prestige, from what I gather they are the same record and the track order was just rearranged.

  • This particular test pressing is completely boring. And it is of an issued record! Of course, there is nothing particularly exciting about a test pressing anyway unless it is of an unissued record. I have a small number of test pressings of famous artists that are all of issued recordings. I’d rather have the albums themselves with the jackets and printed labels. I agree with Al about being patient. I recently bought Charlie Mariano with his Jazz Group on 10-inch Imperial IM-3006 released in 1955. I have the other album IM-3007 issued at the same time, which I bought when It first came out. You could say I waited 60 years to find and buy the second album at a price I was willing to pay. Both albums and jackets are V++/V++. I bought IM-3006 for less than $20.00. I plan to sell both albums (check Popsike for prices).

  • As for “Ken Coltrane,” that may be the “smooth jazz” Coltrane. Actually, it may reflect the likelihood that people on the production side of the record business don’t know the artists, and that one is the same as another. Years ago, I read that Nat “King” Cole visited Capitol Records (his principal recording company) and a receptionist didn’t know who he was. The young wife of a friend was working in the administrative offices of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. One day, Carl Sandberg came for a visit and my friend’s wife introduced him as “Mr. Sam Berg.” We pretended it never happened.

  • Duke Pearson Production Sessions
    –Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner
    –Duke Pearson: How Insensitive; I Don’t Care Who Knows It; Merry Ole Soul; It Could Only Happen With You
    –Donald Byrd: Fancy Free
    –Lee Morgan: Midnight Cowboy 45 RPM
    –Ray Nance: Body and Soul (Solid State)
    –Stanley Turrentine: Ain’t No Way
    –Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land Quintet: Medina
    –Bobby Hutcherson: Now!
    –Wayne Shorter: Super Nova; Motto Grosso Feio
    –Candido: 1,000 Finger Man
    –McCoy Tyner: Extensions

  • I would assume someone buying the test pressing already has originals of als. I had asked them if this was the same mix as the original and they said they didn’t know.

  • Mike,

    Test pressings are the final step in the recording process before manufacture. It is to make certain everyone is satisfied with what will be the final product, mastering, sound quality, song line-up, etc. I have never heard a test press that was different from the final product.

  • I’m glad at least Geoffrey agrees with me that this test pressing isn’t really that nuts although I was, upon initial viewing, very curious to see what it would go for.

  • Test pressing seems to be a much bigger deal for younger collectors even without the associated jackets, although I’ve really only noticed this trend for newer releases.

  • My apologies to loyal readers here for my misspelling Carl Sandburg’s Swedish last name as “Sandberg.” I had a schoolboy friend who was a “Sandberg” and that is how I have come to think of the spelling. As for pressing LPs in plastic, I was told years ago, that Decca had a plant in Puerto Rico that pressed records out of PVC. I had a Jack Millman Decca LP that must have been pressed at that plant because it broke like a 78.

  • Decca used styrene for their lp albums. THe sound is very quiet, no background noise or hissing.

  • …”As for pressing LPs in plastic, I was told years ago, that Decca had a plant in Puerto Rico that pressed records out of PVC.”…

    PVC = Polyvinyl Chloride = Vinyl

  • but aaron, PVC is a different type of vinyl. “vinyl” loosely means a certain class of compounds. what we call ‘vinyl’ on records, is a specific member of that class. PVC is a different one.

    i think the people that would say we are silly for wanting originals feel the same way about originals that we do about test pressings! 🙂

  • PVC comes in many different types. One of its earliest forms was as a material used to manufacture pipe, couplings, joints, elbows, etc. When I was an editor for a heavy construction magazine in the early 1960s, when I would go on a job site, I would frequently see lots of PVC pipe. Sometimes I would handle it. It was clearly different from the vinyl from which records are made.

  • Hi Gregory & Geoffrey,
    Of course there are differing additives and formulations but the basic material is the same. From Wiki:

    “vinyl record, commonly known as a record, is an analogue sound storage medium in the form of a flat polyvinyl chloride (previously shellac) disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove.”

  • well, no arguing there. but the PVC pipe you can make potato cannons out of would not do or pressing records. different purity standards and all. but i had no idea that the only real difference was the quality control. i’ve been wrong for so long!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *