Adventures in Jazz Collecting: Red Carraro, Part 3

Red in the basement

Back to my Red Carraro stories. If Red were alive today and reading this he’d look at the name on the Web site and swear he never knew me. That’s because when I first met Red I was still going by my childhood nickname, which was “Lit.” This came from being somewhat short in height and someone once started calling me little and it became Lit and it really stuck. Kids in school called me “Lit Perlman” but Red never knew my last name, or my first name, and always just called me Lit. “Lit, hey how ya doin,” Red would always say when he’d see me, with a smile and a warm pat on the pack. “I see you’re still hustlin’ for records.”

When I started my journalism career my first paying job was as the jazz critic for the New Times in Syracuse, an alternative weekly paper. I’ve repurposed at least one of my articles here at Jazz Collector in Memories of Mingus. Anyway, I had spent the first half of 1973 at home in Bayside mending my broken leg and spending a lot of time at Red’s house, in the basement, poring through records and listening to music. It was definitely good times. When I got back to Syracuse, I wanted to do Red a favor so I wrote a review of a record

I purchased from him, Eddie Jefferson’s Letter From Home on Riverside, and I talked about how everyone should contact The Jazz Hunter, which was the name Red used for his record business. I sent a copy of the article to Red and asked him about it next time I saw him. “ You wrote that?” he said, incredulously. “There was some other name on it. I thought your name was ‘Lit.’”

And he never called me by any other name.

When I first started going to Red’s house there were, literally, a few boxes of records in the basement, mostly the Verve’s that he had just acquired. Within a couple of years the basement was completely saturated with records and eventually they took over his entire garage as well. At one time Red told me he figured he had more than 100,000 records. He had that same symptom of Jazz Collecting that we all seem to have: It’s a lot more fun to find the records than it is to get rid of them.

One time I got a call from Red and he said he had a bunch of Blue Notes. I already had a bunch of Blue Notes, a lot from my dad who was into Horace Silver and Art Blakey. But these were Blue Notes I had never seen before, long out of print even back then in the late 1970s or early 1980s: Blue Notes by Thad Jones, Cliff Jordan, Freddie Redd, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley. Red was selling them new and sealed for $10 each. I wish I could tell you they were original pressings, but they weren’t. These were the first of the United Artists pressings and we couldn’t figure out how they wound up in Red’s basement. Nevertheless, he had hundreds of them and I bought many to fill out my Blue Note collection. I still have a lot of those records today.

Over the years I’d see Red occasionally at record shows and he came over to my house a couple of times to pore through records. Whenever I’d see Red it was always a warm and friendly reunion because Red was a genuinely warm guy. He was always happy to see me and I was happy to see him and we’d chat and swap stories. Whenever I would drive on Ocean Avenue, exit 17 off the Southern State Parkway, and I’d pass Aberdeen Street I’d be tempted to turn right and pull up to Red’s house and see if he had any records for sale in the basement. I probably haven’t been there in 20 years, but it was always a thought. In fact, I drove by just a few weeks ago and almost made the turn. Now I wish that I had.

And here’s the coda: The other day Dan called Amy, Red’s wife, the console her and to get information about the wake and funeral arrangements. Dan and I would have gone for sure, but it turns out we are both out of town. Anyway, Dan mentioned Jazz Collector and Amy said she had seen the articles on the site but had no idea who was this guy “Al Perlman.” Danny said it was “Lit.” And Amy said, “Oh Lit! I remember that time you left Lit in the basement. That was one of Red’s favorite stories. He used to tell it all the time.”

4 comments

  • Al, that picture kills me!
    I would have stopped by Red’s more often but I knew it would surely cost me a weeks pay! It was impossible to leave that basement without at least a small stack.
    remember how Red would stamp his covers on the inside? and his penciled codes on back covers? still have a closet full of em. including some new U.A. Blue Notes.
    thanks for sharing .

  • …It a fine summer night here in Ottawa, and the sun is setting as we speak. Billie sings a standard in the backdrop, with a fine single malt in one hand, a cigar in the other to complete the picture…. Here’s to you Red.

  • Just found your picture while search for other jazz collectors. I had to stop by and say that it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in having a room packed to the gunnels with albums. Wishing you all the best from the UK.

    Colin Hall

  • I was just putting a record away and noticed a stamp on the inside – William Carraro with a Malverne, NY address. Whenever I find an address in a record I look it up online – that is what brought me here. I bought the record in St. Louis in 1998 and never noticed the address until just tonight. Glad to know it came from such a legendary fellow. I listened to ‘I Can’t Get Started’ in his honor after I read about him.

    In case anyone is curious, the record is a UA issue of Donald Byrd At The Half Note Vol. 2.

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