By Al Perlman
Editor and Publisher, Jazz Collector
To my regular Jazz Collector readers, I promise I will be back with a normal post on Tuesday. In the meantime, I ask for one final indulgence for this one final post so I can close the book on this Chasing Trane diversion.
First of all, I would like to let you all know that I am doing well. Since the election I have not turned on the television news or read any news or opinions in any periodical — print or online. It has been a blessing. My head is not clogged with useless information, my guts are not wrenched with fear, my vision is not clouded with images of people who spew hatred, vitriol and divisiveness.
Even better, I have begun to channel the spiritual awareness that the Coltrane documentary helped to inspire. I am walking down the street with a new energy that seems to be apparent because people are smiling at me and talking to me as never before. I am chatting with people in the elevator. I’ve reached out to friends that I have been estranged from for years. Plus, with my head cleared, I’ve had a burst of creative energy. The previous post on Chasing Trane is just one example. I am also doing great work for my clients and I am doing more writing on the side.
As promised, here is the paper written by Irving Kalus on Charlie Parker, dated December 22, 1949. I have to really admire that Irving caught on to bebop so quickly and ardently, and he recognized the genius and contribution of Bird. You can see that this paper is written with tremendous passion and feeling and probably some hyperbole that can be easily excused by the exuberance of youth. As Irving’s son Gary told me, Irving was a fan of Benny Goodman . . . well, read it and see. I’ve reprinted the entire paper below and I’m also attaching it as a downloadable PDF (Ornithology). It’s remarkably similar to the article I wrote in 1975, when I was 22 and had the benefit of 20 years of history after Bird had died. You can find my article here: An Old Jazz Collector Tribute to Charlie Parker. Irving was neither a writer nor jazz critic by trade, but he certainly had a gift for both and, from now on, perhaps forever, whenever anyone does a Google search linking on Irving Kalus, the names Charlie Parker and Irving Kalus will be inextricably tied together. It’s a nice thought and a pretty apt tribute, wouldn’t you say?
Irving Kalus was 82 years old when he died on December 22, 2011. It was early in the evening and he had just gone to the record store around the corner, Infinity Records, in Massapequa Park on Long Island. He bought a Miles Davis record and was crossing Sunrise Highway when he got hit by a car and was killed instantly. I didn’t know Irving Kalus personally, but I seem to know him quite intimately now, at least in connection with one particularly important area of his life: His love of jazz. It was Irving Kalus’ collection that I purchased a few weeks ago and I would like to share what I have learned about the man and his life-long passion for jazz.
Irving fell in love with jazz when he was a teenager. His son Gary remembers him telling stories about musicians he had met – the time Sarah Vaughan kissed him on the cheek, the times Dizzy Gillespie would talk with him outside a club before or after a gig. Bud Powell once fixed him a drink: “He called it a Joe Louis because he said it will really knock you out,” Gary recalls his father telling him. Irving picked up on bebop quite early and it clearly had a profound influence on his life.
When I left Massapequa on Monday Karen said she wanted to sell the records to me but it was not her decision alone, she would have to consult with her brother. She believed that he would also want to sell the records to me and they’d probably give me the go-ahead on Tuesday. When I didn’t hear from Karen by Tuesday evening I started getting a little nervous: Were they getting cold feet, were they shopping the collection around, was there suddenly going to be a slew of cutthroat record dealers sniping for the records? Just the normal paranoia, right? I wasn’t all that concerned because I believed that no dealer would come close to the offer I made because, well, for me it wasn’t a business decision but an emotional decision. If it was about business, I would have spent more than a half hour with the records in the first place, and I would have at least gone through them all to identify the ones of the most value and to figure out how to get rid of the ones I didn’t want. But I was just improvising and by this point it wasn’t about whether I had made the right decision to buy the records, it was just about closing the deal.
Have I ever mentioned that The Lovely Mrs. JC is a psychotherapist by profession? You’d think after 35 years of marriage to a shrink I’d have been somewhat cured of my vinyl obsession by now. Anyway, The Lovely Mrs. JC returned home from her practice that Monday evening and we sat down to have a quiet dinner and chat. We had many things to talk about and the record collection wasn’t foremost on her mind and, in fact, I had made such little light of the prospects for this collection that it seemed to have slipped her mind completely. So I had to bring it up.
“You know I saw that record collection today,” I said, quite casually.
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Anything of interest?”
“Yes, it was pretty interesting,” I said.
We sat in silence for a few seconds.
“There’s a chance I may be buying it,” I finally said.
She stared at me in stunned disbelief.
I smiled a sheepish smile and held up three fingers.
Her eyes popped out of her head. “Three hundred records! How can you buy three hundred more records!”
So now I had a general sense of the collection but since my original intent was to just look it over and give advice, I had no real sense of whether I would want to buy the collection or even whether they would be interested in selling it to me. So I wasn’t overly excited or enthused as I sat down with Karen and Adam to tell them what I had discovered. I said that it was an amazing collection of music mostly from the bop and post-bop era, that most of the records were reissues or later pressings, but that there were, indeed, some valuable records within the collection. I didn’t say how many valuable records because I had no idea. I then asked Karen if her father had ever talked about the records and what they might be worth and what to do with them after he passed away. She said that she had never really had that discussion with her father, and neither did her brother. She said her father just loved the music and never really considered the records as something of monetary value, just something to treasure and enjoy.
So I’m sitting on the floor and there’s this two-shelf low cabinet and there’s maybe 300 records in it altogether and I reach for the Coltranes on Impulse and pull them out. They are not obvious originals but each one has a gatefold cover, so there is hope. I open the first one, Ballads. And it is . . . ugh, a very late black label pressing. Then A Love Supreme: late pressing, black and red label. In fact, I go through all of the Coltrane Impulses and there’s not a single original pressing in the bunch. And now I’m fairly convinced that this is just a lovely collection of great music but not one of collectible records. And I am almost ready to give up and give Karen my advice, which is that she should probably go to Infinity Records around the corner and see what they would pay.
And then, in the middle of the Coltranes, there is this record: Sonny Clark, Sonny’s Crib, Blue Note 1576. And I remember thinking, why is the Sonny Clark record amid all of the Coltranes? But, of course, Coltrane is a sideman on this record and if the guy was a real Coltrane fan perhaps he organized his records according to his favorite artists and wanted all of his Coltrane records in one place. As a collector who constantly reorganizes and plays with my own collection, I could certainly relate to that. Read more
So it came to that Monday, June 25, and I was driving down from The Berkshires to drop the lovely Mrs. JC off at her office in Great Neck and I was then to head out to Massapequa to see this record collection. And I really had no expectations about the collection and no real desire to see it and was feeling I was doing it just as a favor to the woman who sent me the e-mail to help her out because, clearly, her father loved jazz and it would be a nice thing to do. So I told the Lovely Mrs. JC, who tends to get nervous when I am around too many records, that there was nothing to worry about, that it was not a collectible collection and I would just take a look at it and give them advice and not be bringing any more records home. No problem, I said, but the look in her eyes was a familiar combination of doubt and dread.
I got to the house in Massapequa at the appointed time, put my dog Marty in a carrying bag and was greeted at the door by a muscular young man who let me in and told me his name was Adam and it was his grandfather’s collection. And then Adam’s mother appeared, and she was the one I had been e-mailing with, and introduced herself as Karen. I assumed Adam was there to ensure that I wasn’t some wacked out crazed record collecting nut, which seemed like a reasonable expectation at the time and I thought this was a wise decision on their behalf. Karen appeared to be a few years younger than me, but of my generation, and we started chatting and we had a very nice rapport because we had in common, among other things, fathers who were obsessed with jazz music and jazz records.
So I mentioned the other day that I recently purchased a record collection. Here is the story.
A few weeks ago a woman sent me the following e-mail:
“I’m wondering if you can help me. My dad passed away suddenly in an accident. He left a huge jazz collection of approximately 2500+ vinyl albums. He died at 82 and was a jazz enthusiastic since his teens and his collection dates back to then. To his great disappointment I did not share his passion for jazz. I am interested in selling his collection. How can I go about finding its value? I’ve read some of the information on your blog and realize I need to consult an expert. Any guidance you can give would be greatly appreciated.”
I get emails like this fairly often now that I do Jazz Collector. They usually don’t turn out to be much. I generally look to help people over e-mail and my advice if they have anything collectible is to usually tell them to try to sell the records on eBay. I’m not necessarily looking to purchase collections: I’m still a collector and not a dealer and I have way more records than I have places to keep them. Some of you, Rudolf I’m sure, may even recall that I began a project several years ago to pare down my collection, which I grandly labeled The Great Jazz Vinyl Countdown. Needless to say that project is quite defunct.
This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. When I was breaking in as a journalist my first job was as the jazz critic for the Syracuse New Times, an alternative newspaper in Syracuse, NY. I did a bunch of interviews — Charles Mingus, Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, among others — record and concert reviews and other features. I once posted my Mingus Interview here at Jazz Collector. Most of the articles are long gone, not in my files, certainly not saved in any digital format — this was the early 1970s, nothing was digital then. However, I did save a copy of an article I wrote about Charlie Parker, which was timed to coincide with the 2oth anniversary of Bird’s death in 1975. I recently dug up the article and painstakingly retyped it into my computer and now it will be saved digitally forever and ever. And now, when people do a search of Charlie Parker and Al Perlman, I will forever be associated with Bird. It’s enough to put a big smile on my face, that thought. Me and Bird. I like it. Anyway, it’s a pretty well written article, if I must say so myself, but there are clearly youthful indiscretions and probably a little too much borrowing from Ross Russell’s Bird Lives, including the opening scene and some idle speculation that Bird got his nickname because he loved fried chicken. There are many stories to go with this article and how it got published — and how I got away with using the word “motherfucker.” But those are for another day. Oh, and I didn’t put that stupid headline on the article nor did I get to approve it. I’ve attached the article as a PDF to download for simple viewing. Here it is: Charlie Parker Article. I’m also going to see if I can post it below here without screwing up Jazz Collector and, to prove there really was an article to begin with, we have a picture of the original, from April 13, 1975. If you are going to comment, please be kind. I was only 22 years old at the time. Read more