What Makes Us Covet Certain Records vs Others?

Tal Farlow Jazz VinylWhilst I’ve been away, a friend sent me this link: A Recital by Tal Farlow, Norgran 1030. This was an original pressing listed in M- condition for both the record and the cover. It looked pristine, probably with the original inner sleeve. The final price was $121.49. Is that high, low or just right? It seems original Norgrans in this condition are quite hard to find, but the demand is nothing close to the original Blue Notes or Prestiges. For my money, Farlow was the best of the bop-oriented guitarists, but his records rarely sell for high collectible prices, particularly in today’s market as we are seeing prices of some records rising to staggering levels. Is it a question of label, race, style of music, era, artist, instrument or some combination of all of the above? It would be easy to suggest it is race, but then someone sent me this link as well: Art Pepper, Modern Art, Intro 606. This was also an original pressing and it was also in M- condition for the record and the cover. This one sold for $3,506. Pepper was iconic because of all the other stuff in his life, so well told and chronicled in his book Straight Life so maybe I’m just stretching a comparison, but it’s interesting to ponder what makes collectors interested in one set of records or artists, versus others of the same era. Hopefully we can generate some interesting discussion.

Speaking of artists adored by collectors, there was Sonny Clark, Cool Struttin’, Blue Note 1588. This looked to be an original pressing listed in VG++ condition for the record and VG++ for the cover. It sold for $1,585, which is quite a bit less than one would typically expect for this record. I wonder why? The seller has good feedback and there don’t seem to be any hidden “gotchas” in the listing. Not that $1,585 is such a low price, but we’ve seen this record sell consistently for more than $3,000 in this condition in the Jazz Collector Price Guide. By the way, I totally understand why the Sonny Clark Blue Notes are so coveted by collectors. They are great records, all of them, and he was such a brilliant pianist. If you want to find some less expensive Sonny Clark records — along with Tal Farlow — check out some of the collaborations with Buddy DeFranco on Norgran and Verve. You can typically get these for much less than the Blue Notes and the music is superb. For many reasons, the record Cooking the Blues is particularly close to my heart.


  • Another superb inexpensive Sonny Clark is Bennie Green’s self-titled LP on Time. Sonny’s in great form, and they play sweet versions of both Sonny’s Crip and Cool Struttin’. Good stuff, excellent sound, not expensive.

    I think one reason why Norgran, Clef and the like are not as sought-after is that those labels are linked with swing and bop, which can be viewed by some collectors as old-fashioned and not “cool.” Whereas NYC hard bop (the acme of which is Blue Note and Prestige) just bleeds ’50s and ’60s jazz cool, and thus seems to set all our hearts aflutter. In addition, Verve records were so often repressed and therefore seemingly widely available – and also often of . . . questionable . . . musical quality – that I think even some of the very strong Norgren and Clef sessions get unfairly lumped in with the tedious JATP records, Musician A meets Nelson Riddle!, the 10,000 Ella Fitzgerald big band records, and that kind of unexciting (to me) stuff. As a result, many worthy records get overlooked as both uncool, and widely available (comparatively).

  • Looks like the Clark had a registration mark so I guess that would make it a second pressing. I “like” that record but I really love some of his others… just my .02.

    $3,500 is the highest price I’ve yet seen for Modern Art, though I suppose it could have gone for more on some occasions… you’re right, Pepper has a mythology all his own that some of the other white bop musicians don’t have and perhaps part of it is the instrument he played and the context in which he came up (Konitz doesn’t have the same mystique although I’d argue he accomplished more musically).

    As for my own coveting, a lot of it is in the look and feel of certain albums as well as how uncommon they are — private-press and small-label American and European jazz albums from the mid-60s through the mid-70s often get under my skin. Some vary in musical content/quality but if they have the right look of a fragile, homemade design and are in top condition, I’m usually intrigued.

  • Yes, the Bennie Green LP with Sonny Clark is excellent, with the added bonus of Jimmy Forrest. I paid £3.50 for a pristine copy a couple of months ago.

  • The Sonny Clarke – Cool Strutting is a second press with the “Inc” in the address and the “®” at the bottom of the label. The price it went for seems fair, given the condition.

    With regard to the disparity in interest and demand for certain records— there is likely a lot to do with many new collectors entering the market, who’s interest goes first to the most iconic and heralded labels like Prestige and Blue Note. I assume, as their knowledge and appetite for great music grows, so will interest in less “prestigious” labels. Another factor could very well be the quality of manufacturing and engineering, which very rightfully gave labels like Blue Note their nobility. Early Plastylite pressings with the famous Van Gelder sound, along with the iconic Reid Miles/Francis Wolf cover art contributed to create a perfect storm of jazz desirability.

  • That de Franco/Clark LP is “Cooking the Blues,” not Cookin’; don’t mean tp be pedantic, but if you search under Cookin’ you won’t find it.

  • Earl — I will fix.
    All — thanks for catching my error on the Sonny Clark
    Clifford — I would put Paul Desmond in the same category as Pepper and Konitz, and would suggest he was the most inventive and accomplished of the three

  • Desmond is indeed great — I poo-pooed him for a long time, given that Brubeck wasn’t someone I could get wholly into — but that group concept and his part within it has crept into my pantheon of great respect, even if I don’t throw on one of their records very often. Desmond and Mulligan were also a sweet combination.

  • It seems also that guitar based jazz isnt the immediate favorite of many modern (50s and 60s) jazz enthusiasts so those albums are a bit cheaper than their horn or piano based counterparts.

  • I think it is time to name your most underrated record which is not a Bluenote or Prestige. Let the games begin!

  • The Pepper was a very strange one, as it had only one side deep groove. I wonder if that makes it a 2nd pressing? Never seen that before. My copy has deep groove on both sides.

  • Fredrik, if you look at the photo of Side 2 I think the seller didn’t notice that it’s double labeled. You can see the slight indentation of the groove upper right. I’ve seen this several times on other records, the most being 3 labels on one side.

  • Woody: very interesting. Never seen that before. Thanks for the enlightment.

  • I also liked Paul Desmond especially his albums with Jim Hall. Years ago I read a long interview with Anthony Braxton who couldn’t say enough about how much he admired Paul.

  • Vaughn: I’m right there with you! Jim Halls CTI “Conceirto de Aranjuez” with Paul Desmond and Chet Baker is 19min and 21sec of absolute heaven.

  • Art Klempner: yes, the game is on: Jack Montrose.

  • To me the problem is not underrated records. There are so many talented jazzman that deserve much attention… It is the overhype / overrating around Blue Note (and sometimes Prestige) that doesn’t make sense. But Rudolph has written the definitve post about it….

  • Gregory the Fish

    i think race has fairly little to do with the collectibility of tal farlow records. people view horns as the essence of jazz, and foolishly throw anything that isn’t horn led or a piano trio under the bus. but tal is amazing and i have several great records by him.

    we all know that most jazz collectors are older white men these days, and so i’d be shocked if farlow was ignored for being white, especially when kai winding, lee konitz, lennie tristano, warne marsh, charlie haden, bill evans, art pepper, gerry mulligan, etc are so known as top innovators in a similar time.

    as for paul desmond: fuck that dude. he might have been good, but brubeck in my opinion was a hack and paul desmond wasted his talent playing with him. lee konitz is forever in my top white alto spot, which i mention only because we seem to have brought it up, but i think its stupid to care about the race of these guys.

    the white players were awesome (stan kenton notwithstanding) for putting the racial toxicity of the day aside to make music they loved, and the black players were awesome for (mostly) letting those cats onto their turf and being willing to jam above racial fuckery. but i think it is fairly clear that jazz was a creation of black america.

    as for blue note hype: it is now self-sustaining, as a nuclear reaction. just having an original blue note in good condition makes me feel good as a collector. and now that we have reached that point, it is unlikely to subside. as an example, the 3 sounds would be lost to history if they hadn’t recorded for blue note, but the blue note lore makes me willing to buy one and try to find its good points. and i don’t have a huge problem with that. we all wish we had the money to buy lots of original blue notes to brag about, but the fact is that we don’t, and we should look for great music elsewhere. (what about early MUSE records, man?)

    i really should be doing work right now.

  • Muse was a cool label indeed.

    I mean, this isn’t and shouldn’t be a political blog and I don’t think posting much on the subject is really for the JC focus, but race is and always will be a complex part of the jazz experience. It wouldn’t be right to deny that as a fact and I’m sure it has and does factor into the ‘hipness’ or credibility of certain artists and recordings.

  • Anders Wallinder

    I’ll second Michel’s comment. It is in my view not a problem that Norgrans etc. have resonable prices but it is sad that BN and Prestige are so much money. Only dealers and people with extensive collections that want to sell gain from those high prices.

    I think we should be happy with the fact that every original press does not cost a leg and an arm. Hopefully it stays that way. In a way we collectors decide.

    On another topic Race and Musicians. I could not care less….which color a musician have other that from a historic perspective. Listening is does not matter for me.

    Sorry Gregory: IMO Desmond was cool for sure. I also feel that maybe we should refrain ourselves from using such strong negative statements…

  • I was selling at a show a few months back — the only guy at the show with jazz — and tried to turn a young guy with limited jazz knowledge on to Barney Kessel and Pete Rugolo. He took one look at them and said, disparagingly, “I don’t know…white guys?” If you’re not in the know race can seem to be a good stand-in for authenticity, much like certain labels can seem more authentic than others. I can understand the impulse of a novice to see Norgran, for example, as the “white guys” of jazz labels.

  • To answer Al’s original question, I think the price of the Farlow is a little high.

    Lots of good insight here about labels, what instrument is being played, the fact that we’re primarily a bunch of older white dudes here, etc. But to me, it really comes down to this: Come on, it’s just Tal Farlow. He was a great player, sure, but he’s far from what most consider a “legend.” And aside from folks like us here, who really cares? There aren’t flocks of young 20-something collectors chasing Tal Farlow records the way they chase Miles. They’ve probably never even heard of him. And as us old times eventually die off, Tal’s name will ultimately die with us. Think of all the wonderful players to whom this has already happened.

    I’ve been collecting Jazz for 25 years. I’m passionate for the music and collecting and am educated about both. And Tal was solid. But even with all that I’m probably not the only one inclined to say, “Meh, Tal Farlow.” I’ve bought him when I’ve found him for a good (cheap) price, but I’m not out there looking to add him to my collection at three figures. Looks like there were only a few bidders willing to go over $50 for that record.

  • Terryfromflorida

    I must admit, I’ve been listening to a Paul Desmond lp called Take Ten with Jim Hall. Found it recently in the dollar bin.
    This lp has a Gerry Mulligan Night Lights kind of vibe (even though there is no piano) and I found myself toe tapping away….

  • I’m a HUGE Pepper Adams fan. He seemed to jump around on different labels. I believe he did one record on Prestige but the rest was a mixed bag. I think he is highly under rated in the collector community. You can still get most of his records for pretty reasonable prices. I have pretty much his whole catalog and I there is nothing I don’t like.

  • Gregorythefish – allow me to defend Brubeck and Desmond for a minute. I’m not a huge Brubeck fan, but my wife is, so we have a fair few of his records. First, they’re good. Desmond is good. The band is tight. Second, they’re cheap. Maroon label DG super-heavy early Columbias for $5. Third, Brubeck was a fine, fine man, and fought hard for racial integration, canceling gigs in the South, refusing to play on TV when the execs tried to bounce his African-American bassist, Gene Wright, and so on. Desmond was a well-known wit; dry, acerbic, funny as hell. Plus, the man wrote Take Five (a damn good song), and, upon his death, donated the royalties to the American Red Cross. All in all, they were cool dudes. Again, not my favorite records, but two of my favorite jazz musicians, and a nice antidote to remember when I’m enjoying a Chet Baker record and thinking about what a colossal jerk he was.

  • I think “time out” is an outstanding album; have mint original 6-eyes in mono and stereo. How about the Candid label for underrated jazz albums? Some of my favorite Mingus is on the Candid label..seems only a few Candid albums fetch big dollars.

  • Many things go into Blue Note & Prestige lps selling for high prices. In addition to the great music, both labels had original attractive album covers due to the combination of creative photography, cool graphic design styles and interesting use of fonts. The entire package became a work of art. Plus, these were two big labels from the New York area and that added to the mystique. As to why Art Pepper lps sell for a far higher price than lps from Tal Farlow, I think your more controversial artists (the bad boys) like Pepper tend to gather more of a cult following than your good guy types like Farlow, especially among younger collectors. Also, lps from small labels like Intro tend to command higher prices than a larger better distributed labels like Norgran.

  • Intro ILP 608, Joe Morello with Art Pepper, rec. Jan 1957, never reaches high prices. why?

  • Rob, I disagree about Pepper Adams as being “highly under rated” in the collector or any other community – from what I’ve seen over the last ten years, he could not possibly be categorized as such. Now Joe Farrell is probably one of the most underrated players (and a white dude) in the history of Hard Bop. Anyone who takes the time to trace his career will be astounded, although few bother. Too bad- what an innovator he was, and highly respected by the other innovators and leaders of his time.

  • Dottorjazz: Art Pepper is really only a sideman on Intro ILP 608 (I own the Score release SLP-4031). Art plays on less than half the tunes, beautifully of course but it’s not his record.

  • The question as to why we covet this as opposed to that, within the context of collecting and music scenes, has received some scholarly scrutiny. One should not discount more purely sociological reasons, indexed to the most common average age of most jazz collectors, and what was the music of their (our!) youth. This also corresponds with our highest earnings period of our lives, and other factors that give us more disposable income than many other demographics. Yes Verve was our parents music, Blue Note, Prestige, that was our hip. This notion of “hip” then caused many dj to drop samples from Blue Note recordings, which raised their value considerably. And, of course, most are just simply great! Me, I get as much a rise out of finding some hard to get recording on Horo, say, as I do on older labels, partially, I think for classic collector reasons related to obscurity, we know so much about Blue Note and its history that almost anyone can bone up on that discography, while small European Free Jazz labels, there is more to learn and discover. Sort of like wine–go with 1st grown Bordeaux, it is straight by the book, venture into wines of the South West, more to discover, more variability, harder to know what is what.

  • Gregory the Fish

    oh clifford: i agree with you entirely. i was more saying i doubt people not paying big bucks for tal farlow records has to do with race. that was all.

    anders: hey man, difference of opinion is what makes the world go ’round. no qualms here. but i really, really dislike brubeck for many reasons, and i speak harshly when it is of little consequence. no harm intended for you!

    rob: pepper adams is outstanding. i have been looking for an original copy of “dakar” for awhile thanks to him and cecil payne blowing with trane.

    joe L: oh i would never say brubeck and desmond were bad people. they did a ton for what was right socially, but i just strongly, strongly dislike almost all of brubeck’s music, and i find his lasting popularity frustrating. i might write about it sometime. but hey, like i said to anders, it takes all kinds. and you are right, those early columbia’s do play nicely. i have a few!

  • Hey as long as we are talking Baritone, how about Bob Gordon?

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