A Little Bird, A Little Philosophizing

Glad to see there is still some collector interest in Charlie Parker. I had heard this theory, and once discussed it here, that there’s a window of about 50 years for interest in a performer/musician and after that period the people who actually could remember him are no longer around and the influence that he or she engendered, no matter how profound, would eventually fade or be forgotten in the afterglow of artists who succeeded them. This seemed particularly apt in the case of popular artists — a Bing Crosby or Fred Astaire, for example — but it also seems to have impacted the jazz world as well. You don’t get the sense that collectors and even aficionados today have the same esteem for, say, Duke Ellington or Count Basie or even Lester Young that collectors and aficionados had 20 years ago. I think about this a lot and wonder, not just about my collectible records (and their value), but about how history will treat earlier artists and whether their contributions will be remembered in the perspective of their era and the eras that came subsequent to their contributions. Artists like, say, Johnny Hodges or Art Tatum or even Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz (and no, I’m not just focusing on the Verve label, although those provide good examples). This came to mind because

I was keeping on eye on this record on eBay: Charlie Parker, Dial 202. It struck me that there are few of the Bird records that have the same cachet as collectibles, and perhaps even as music, as they did when I started getting into jazz 4o or so years ago. At that time, Bird was, well, Bird, and there was nobody more important. Finding an original Bird Savoy or an original Bird Mercury or Clef was a nice score. Not so much anymore. Anyway, this particular record, a 10-incher, has been bid up to more than $150, so somewhere there is still strong interest, which, to me, is a good thing.

21 comments

  • I’m fortunate to have a copy of Dial 202–nice record for sure and glad to see that it’s got some value. Al–do you think this has dropped in value like some of the others you described or held steady?

  • I have to wonder how much condition and playback quality impact the value of these records as well. I certainly have learned to be very cautious about 10 inch releases as many of them were pressed on material which was not very durable and/or has begun to deteriorate.

    For instance, I have a copy of Mercury MG-35010 “Charlie Parker with Strings” which looks to be in excellent condition, but is unplayable due to the fact that the material it it pressed (polystyrene, perhaps?) is deteriorating as evidenced both by distortion on playback and a fine black residue on the stylus when the record is done playing. I have several other 10 inch, EP and even a few LP releases from the early 50s that have this issue. It’s certainly made me think twice about spending big bucks on a record like this one.

  • that would be ballz if i could find the Bird blows the blues dial lp for under 50 bucks

  • I’d say no worries, Al. I discovered Parker in my early twenties (say around 1992, 1993) and I’ve become an addict. Today it’s the year 2012, so we’re twenty years further and Lester Young, Count Basie, Art Tatum, Dizzy Gillespie, etc etc all feature in my collection. There will always be people who discover an artist or music style sooner or later. Whether they start collecting or not is another thing, but still: up to this day there are kids that find inspiration in Kerouac’s “On The Road” and if that still happens so many years after the book was first published, then I’m tellin’ ya that every day, somewhere on earth, someone will hear Parker playing his infamous, but heart wrenchingly beautiful version of “Lover Man” and will fall in love with jazz. That way none of jazz will ever be forgotten 😉

  • pre-bebop jazz, 20’s to 40’s, was mainly dance music, played and danced in halls not dedicated to concerts. bebop broke all the rules: it wasn’t easy to dance, to understand, to sing.
    it created a new audience, small clubs were you could listen and drink but no dancing places.
    a sort of musical growth from easy (although beautifully played) to a more complex kind of expression.
    the end of big bands era, due to economical difficulties, brought up small groups, trios to sextets, that didn’t need big stages nor big halls.
    music changed, fans’ interest changed: it was the beginning of a new era in jazz, 40’s into 50’s.
    bebop, cool, west coast and hard bop.
    from there on, collectors’ interest focused mainly in a 20 years period, mid 40’s to mid 60’s.
    and it has remained unchanged till now.
    felixstrange is right in some way: pressing problems but above all needles! can anyone think of his first turntable?
    and then: some artists played their best in a period of 78’s, so originals are hard to find AND play.
    the best Pres is with Basie, long before his Norgrans.
    Bird can be collected in 4 Dial and 4 Savoy 10″, as well as some 12″.
    I’ve Bird blows the blues but 901, NOT 1.
    know what I mean?

  • Al raised an interesting subject. We discussed it before, when I claimed that trad (=Dixieland/New Orleans) records by Sidney Bechet, George Lewis, Kid Ory e.a. have no commercial value anymore, even if they are issued on Blue Note. And this for the simple reason that the people who dug this music are not around anymore. It is a generational problem. So, even if Mattyman and the dottore seem convincing, in the end, interest in the music we dig (West and East Coast) will fade away.

  • but i must say that blue note seems to skip a generation. It is verry popular nowadays, and it even get’s used (samples in hiphop and dance), while traditional jazz was dated during it’s own generation…

  • maarten: could you please communicate the catalogue numbers of your Metronome – Prestige albums. Thanks in advance. Fyi, I am trying to establish which Prestige albums have been issued by Metronome in Denmark.

  • jazz collectors seem hard to extinguish, or better, 40’s to 60’s jazz overcomes several generations.
    rudolf, i’m curious to know where interest of collectors would be directed.
    my opinion is that the oblivion of this twenty years interest will coincide with jazz death, which I think and hope won’t happen.
    XIII XIV and so on century art will be appreciated for ever.

  • If anyone’s interested in my beginner collector’s view on Records by e.g. Charlie Parker or Lester Young, i’d be happy to share it. I see two main problems: It’s very hard to get into the know of which are really first issue pressings, original recording date Albums and all things in that vein. The second problem is this: Additionally to questionable durability of vinyl used in the 1940s/early 1950s, there is the question of “bad” sounding records due to lack of technical knowledge and equipment in recording. I guess i would therefore prefer a record by bird which has been thoroughly remastered and comes in the best possible audio quality, since i don’t want to get disappointed simply by the sound. I have made similar experiences with a 1955 recording by J.J. Johnson on Columbia. So – why invest mmoney in such a record (which is anyway literally untraceable in Germany), when i can invest money in a better sounding Blue Note that i very much also like style-wise?

  • I agree with a lot of what is said here but one thing I wanted to bring up was that the great jazz artists that are no longer highly collectible were in there prime in the 78 era. Louis Armstrong recorded a lot of great stuff but his most innovative and influential sessions were in the late 20s. Ellington and Basie were at there peak in the 30s. They both recorded worthy albums in there the LP albums but there most influential stuff was originally released on 78s. This is true for the dawn of the modern jazz era as well. Bird recorded most of there most famous stuff on 78(which was collected on these dial releases). I love Bird, Monk, Miles, etc, but most of the early-mid 40s stuff I have collected on digital or lp reissue. I don’t spend big bucks on it because I’m not a 78 collector. There are definitely less 78 collectors out there than LP collectors which is why I think that artist like Ellington, Bird, Pops, and the other greats are less appreciated from a collector standpoint. I don’t know if they are less appreciated musically, but I hope the day never comes where these titans are not appreciated.
    I’m putting on Ellington @ Newport 56′ right now. Then something from Bird on Dial, and then something from the Mosaic Ellington 36-40 set. Unfortunately it’s mp3s on computer speakers because I’m at work but we do what we can.

  • This topic is very interesting to me. I’ve only been a Jazz fan for about 3 years, but it began with a seed planted 30 yrs ago when I heard Charlie Parker and Miles Davis’ “Embraceable You”–the version that starts with the suggestion from “As Time Goes By.” I just loved it, but never got back to it until a few years ago, when I loved it again.

    Then I began buying CDs and listening to Charlie Parker’s music, as much of it as I could get a hold of. I have other Jazz CDs now too–Lester Young, Clifford Brown, and others of the time– but still listen to Charlie Parker more than any others. He just has something that clicks with my noggin.

    In fact, I found this site because of a general interest in Jazz, not record collecting. I read it because it’s very well written and I learn a lot here.

    I do appreciate rare records as valuable objects but I don’t own any. I’m glad there are people who appreciate and preserve them, but I’m just not in a position to accumulate or curate a collection of valuable analog music.

    I guess I’d like to say thanks for publishing this fascinating blog. There are those of us–at least me–who ARE still enchanted with Charlie Parker and who listen to him often, but who simply don’t or can’t collect him in analog.

  • Rudolf, i am not home at the moment, but i am pretty shure about the following: i got 3 lps you probably already have in your book: three miles davis albums on Metronome.
    Relaxin’ /workin” /cookin’ with… PRLP 7129 /PRLP 7166/ PRLP 7094 in runoff and RVG in runoff
    newyork adres cover, pretty shure it also says: Printed in Denmark on the cover, and dark blue label. Bought them prety cheap, but they feel to me like originals 🙂

    but i must say i never play them, i only have my BN ‘s next to my turntable, other music i play by cd/mp3
    I think i can count the NON-BN lp’s i own on one/two hands, only one of them i play: Art Farmer- to sweden with love (Atlantic)

  • many thanks Maarten, I appreciate your input. As a matter of fact, Metronome issued only the most popular albums from the Prestige (and Atlantic) catalogues.

  • Maarten:

    I find it interesting that you rarely listen to non-BN LPs. Is that because of pressing quality, taste in music, or just collecting preference? Or some other reason?

  • i am that kind of collector that likes to “complete” the thing you collect, or better, i have the idea i COULD complete it. With any other label than BN that is almost impossible because BN only has like 500 LP’s that you would want

    But i am poor.

    So i have to choose, so i only buy BN’s. For every great prestige or Contemporary i can also buy a Blue Note. To make it easy on myself i agreed to only buy BN’s. I must say i am also a big fan of reid miles and the photos of Francis Wolf, so thats a other reason.
    I like BN best (i like hard-bop most), but ofcourse, there are thousands of other records that are just as good or better. So these albums i have on cd.
    But if i would see a nice original ray draper or Coltrane in Amsterdam for only $5 i would buy it offcourse….. never happened.

  • maarten,
    I’m impressed with your discipline. Unfortunately for me and my check book I’m not able to be as disciplined of a collector. There are simply too many records out there and from a collector stand point(not a music lover stand point) setting a simple goal seems more fulfilling.

  • my check book regularly shouts at me,” what happened to us man, we used to be friends, stop tearing us appart!”.. but to my own dispair i noticed that i don’t even hear him anymore..

  • but seriously, the whole thing with collecting records is that there comes a point that you notice that it isn’t anymore about the music alone. I have enough music on my ipod,cd’s and vinyl for the rest of my life, so why buy more.. so collecting has much more to do with yourself, your desires and fears, and looking for completion like it was in ultima forma as a baby in your mothers womb.
    so, there you have it.

  • I think I agree. Just not ready to confront myself with it yet.

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