You’re really not going to believe what happened to me yesterday. I’m up at my house in The Berkshires and we were hosting some friends for brunch. I did some cleanup in the morning and decided at the last-minute that I would have to go to the town dump to get rid of some garbage before I guests arrived. So I piled some garbage into the car, loaded my dog Marty onto the front seat and headed for the dump. In our local town here, there’s a small shack at the dump where people get rid of stuff they don’t want so that others who may be interested can just take it, free. They call it a swap shop and, occasionally, I’ve found some odds and ends in there, a couple of records, some decent speakers, nothing special. Yesterday, because I was in a bit of a hurry, I wasn’t even going to check, but it only takes a minute and it’s hard to resist. You never know what’s going to be there.
We haven’t had a guest column in a while, but here’s one that came in recently. I will let it speak for itself:
How I met Bill Evans…
First let me introduce myself… I am Mervyn de Gannes from Trinidad & Tobago. Born in the 1920’s, I am the third child in a family of seven kids and the first born boy. In those days, there was a piano in most homes and the girls always took lessons to learn to play. Even at the age of ten when the tutor came to our home, I would be listening in, and whenever my sisters were practicing and played anything incorrectly, I would let them know what they were ‘playing wrong’. Obviously this didn’t go over well with them as I never took lessons. By my late teenage years, by just listening to records and playing by ear, I was performing at friends’ parties until I got married at 26. My idols then were Bill Evans along with Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson.
I was watching that Clifford Brown autograph (as well as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, et al), but didn’t have enough interest to actually bid on it. To my surprise, there were only five bidders altogether, which would seem to indicate minimal interest at that price, which turned out to be $482.11. I did casually mention when I wrote the earlier post that Clifford was probably among my top five musicians of all time and that I would ponder that and do another post on it this weekend. Sometimes, as we all do, I say and do stupid things. It was stupid to even suggest that I could create a list of top five favorite musicians, when there are so many musicians I love and each musician brings something different and special to my life and my enjoyment of music. Last night I was listening to the Dexter Gordon record, Getting’ Around, Blue Note 4204, and I was thinking about how much I love Dexter and how much I treasured seeing him as often as I did in the early and mid-1970s, particularly his very first club date when he began playing again in the United States. And, goodness, what an amazing ballad performance on “Who Can I Turn To.” And then I put on two Miles Davis records, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, and I thought
I’ve been on a bit of a Bill Evans tangent recently. If you’re going to be on a tangent, you could do a lot worse. I’ve been listening to a lot of Evans, mostly the Riverside records, and then I also put on Kind of Blue the other night and I recall thinking to myself that, in many ways, Kind of Blue sounds in some places more like an Evans album than a Miles album. I know there’s always been a bit of controversy about who actually wrote Blue In Green, but all it takes is a cursory listen to hear that it seems more Evans than Miles. Anyway, I’m not looking to open up old wounds or start new controversies. But I want to do two things: 1. Point you all to this very interesting article on the Influence of Evans, The Bill Evans Legacy, by Doug Ramsey in The Wall Street Journal the other day. It’s nice that his genius remains recognized and appreciated and still discussed in the mainstream media. 2: I wanted to post the great recording of My Foolish Heart from Waltz for Debby, just because I love it and wanted to share it with a bunch of my friends. So, enjoy:
I was planning to go to dinner and a movie with The Lovely Mrs. JC when I sat down at the kitchen table at about 4:30 p.m. to do The New York Times crossword, which is always a challenge on Friday. I was able to get it done fairly quickly and decided to swing over to the listings to double check on the time of the movie. While there, I figured I would look and see what was doing on the jazz scene, not that I go to live jazz so frequently these days. I usually tell people I don’t go as often because most of the artists I would prefer to see are dead, but that is probably just a lame excuse for the reality that I am still working hard, still getting older and don’t stay out as late as I used to in my halcyon years. Still, there is some unfortunate truth to my rationale in that I much prefer seeing and listening to the artists and music that we write about here at Jazz Collector. And there are, unfortunately, very few of them left to actually see.
Let’s move off jazz vinyl for a day. I’ve been listening to a recent Mosaic release: The Rosemary Clooney CBS Radio Recordings 1955-61. This is a five-CD set of 104 songs recorded by Clooney for three CBS radio shows produced by Bing Crosby. Why have I been listening to these CDs when I could have used the same time to place original Blue Notes or Prestiges on my beautiful refurbished Lynn Sondek turntable? Two reasons:
One: I happen to be a huge fan of Rosemary Cooney—not her work in the 1950s when she was a pop icon, but the series of albums she made for Concord Jazz starting in 1977 and ending with her death in 2002. These, in fact, are some of my favorite vocal records in my collection, particularly Everything’s Coming Up Rosie, Here’s to My Lady, Rosie Sings Bing, For the Duration, and Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Irving Berlin. I like them all, to be honest. It helps that on these albums she is typically accompanied by top-flight jazz artists such as Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, Nat Pierce, John Oddo, Chuck Israels and many others too numerous to name. But it’s not the accompaniment that knocks me out. It’s the singer. The simple, clear, moving and heartfelt presentations of the songs, each one sung as if the singer had lived and experienced them deeply—and had also experienced quite a bit of life along the way. Which, of course, was exactly the case with Rosemary Clooney.
Sorry to leave you all hanging there, but the meat of the story has been told. At the time, because I thought I was writing a chapter for a book that has still to be written, I wrote one more entry, which was this:
It’s time to starting moving the Blue Notes off the temporary shelf and into the collection. What does this entail? Well, first off each record needs to be washed and cleaned on my VPI record cleaner. Then, I’ll look at the inner sleeve and determine if it needs a new one. I’ll try to listen to each record, or at least one side, before it does into the collection. Then, if it’s new to the collection, I’ll put a sticker on the plastic outer sleeve with the name of the artist, the catalogue number, the condition and probably the value. Something like:
Blue Note 4048
Original West 63rd, DG
Why do I do this? Well, not to be morbid about it, I do this so that when I die my family will know what the records are actually worth. I’ve seen too many circumstances where people got ripped off because they had no idea about the value of the records. Heck, I may have done some of the ripping off myself.
The final batch of records has arrived. The guy from the shipping department in the building just brought them up on a hand truck. Three boxes – those banker’s box file boxes, the brown and white ones you get in Stapes. They’ve never been good for storing or transporting records, but hopefully this batch made it through safely. Opening the first box. There’s a sheath of what looks to be sheepskin or some kind of cotton on top. Nice. The records seem safe. On top, an Errol Garner record. No big deal. Going through the records. Each has the same type of soft plastic cover: I have a feeling these were the original covers on the records. In the 1950s and 1960s they didn’t use what we have come to know as shrink wrap, but they used a cover and it fit loosely over the records, just like these. They certainly seem old enough, and dirty enough, and covered with enough dust to have been original covers from the 1950s. No matter. Getting through the box, one by one, record by record.
So we are now in late December 2011 and I am going through the box of records that was delivered to my apartment in New York City and I am recording my discovery in real time for posterity. Here goes:
Let’s keep digging.
Another beauty. Donald Byrd, Byrd in Flight, Blue Note 4048. This is another one I’ve never owned, certainly never an original pressing which . . . this is! Sweet again. I just did a post on this record on Jazz Collector, just a week ago. A copy in near mint condition sold for more than $1,700 on eBay. This one is also in near mint condition, at least it is for the record. The cover is at least VG++, perhaps even M-. Perhaps this won’t top the market, but it’s got to be worth at least $1,200 in today’s market. Will I sell it? Will I sell the Griffin? Not a fucking chance. I’ve been waiting more than 40 years to get original copies of these records for my collection. And now . . . finally. They are mine.
Let’s keep digging.
A bunch of Blue Notes all in a row: Read more
Well, yes. Yes, I would be interested in the records at around the price that we had discussed nearly two months earlier. Now, recall, I had still never seen the records. They were in Toronto and I was in New York. The guy selling them admittedly didn’t know much about them, other than what he had gleaned from the Jazz Collector Web site and the Fred Cohen Blue Note book. He also told me that many of the records were from England and South Africa, which meant that it was still possible they were not original pressings. If it wasn’t a big investment for me, I wouldn’t have cared that much. But we were talking about a hefty hunk of change, a few thousand dollars, for essentially 25 or so records. This was definitely a risk on my part. So I made a suggestion: I would send him one third of the total price and he would send me 25 records, of which there would be at least 10 of the Blue Notes. If the records were as he said—original pressings, nice condition—I would then send him the rest of the money and he would send me the rest of the records. There were some more negotiations. Again, I won’t bore you with the details. Eventually we struck at deal. I took a deep breath, wrote out a check, put in the mail and waited.