Another Adventure in Jazz Collecting, Baltimore Part 5
So I was carefully handling the first record in the first box, Miles Davis Volume 2, Blue Note 5022. I had once owned this record in poor condition. It was so poor, in fact, I didn’t even want it in my collection, so I sold it on eBay. This one in my hands, under the light, an original pressing, 767 Lexington Avenue, I don’t think it was ever played. Maybe once, on the day that Uncle Bruce purchased the record, which was August 20, 1954. I know that because Uncle Bruce clearly marked the date in pen “8-20-54” on the back of the record, in the upper left corner. There was also the original price of the record in pencil on the upper right corner in the back: 3.75. Otherwise, the cover was quite clean, a little bit of splitting at one seam, a little wear on the front. For eBay I would grade it as VG++. For me, as a collector, I would grade it as very sweet.
The box of 10-inch LPs had a bunch of other Blue Notes and about an equal number of Prestiges. They were all in similar condition, all with the now-familiar writing of the date on the back cover. Some were worse than others, unfortunately, such as the MiIes Davis Quartet, Prestige 161, with all of the seams completely split. They weren’t all gems. There were a few Stan Kenton 10-inch LPs, and a Jackie Gleason 10-inch LP. There was also The Fabulous Thad Jones On Debut, which I had never seen before, and Lee Konitz Originalee on Roost, which I had also never seen. All in all, it was quite a pleasant box of 10-inch LPs.
Then I turned to the other boxes. The first one was all Sinatra. A full box of Sinatra. Not in such great condition either. The next box was mostly Carmen McRae and other vocalists. Nothing exciting here, either. Then bit by bit in other boxes I started pulling out jazz records to put into the boxes I had brought with me from New York. The first, I think, was a Gene Ammons on Prestige, Funky. Then Jammin’ in Hi Fi. Nice records, but not what I had driven down for. Then I started hitting some of the big ones: Tommy Flanagan Overseas, Mobley’s Second Message, Saxophone Colossus.
In looking at these records, I remembered something Rob had told me earlier: That Uncle Bruce seemed to favor some records over others and had put them in plastic sleeves. Actually, that was only partly correct. What Uncle Bruce had done was to KEEP the records in their original loose plastic sleeves. In looking at these records, I got the sense that Uncle Bruce bought them, opened them, put the date on the back, perhaps played them once or twice, and then put them back in the jacket with their original rice paper inner sleeve and the original loose plastic sleeve that was used to package them in the 1950s.
For the most part, these were like new records, what you would have seen on the shelf if you had walked into a record store in 1956, 1957 or 1958. Just to give you an example, here’s Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, an original pressing with the blue and red writing on the back, just as it appeared in Uncle Bruce’s collection, with the loose plastic sleeve and the original promotional material from Contemporary inside the sleeve.
The record and cover are in perfect, new condition, except for the date written in ink on the back, 6-7-57. The Flanagan, Mobley, Colossus, Jackie’s Pal, Jutta Hipps, and most of the others, all like new, all with the original loose plastic sleeve, some with the original rice paper inner sleeve, some, like the Pepper, with no inner sleeve at all, which is how I imagine it was originally sold. It wasn’t all perfect, however. The copy of John Jenkins on Blue Note had water damage. The Giant Steps was a later pressing. Some of the Blue Notes were second pressings. But it was nice. And it was a wonderful score for me as a collector, since it filled in so many of the hard-to-fill gaps in my collection.
I filled up the five boxes I had brought and sat down at the dining room table in Rob’s apartment. It was now after 8 p.m. I had been looking at the records for about an hour and a half, going through each of the collectibles and putting them into my boxes, leaving the others untouched in the boxes where Rob had been keeping them. It was time to talk price. I made a fair offer in between my minimum and maximum and we shook hands. I handed Rob three certified checks I had brought with me to Baltimore. The records were mine. Together Rob and I hauled the boxes down the stairs, down the corridor and into the car. I went back to the apartment one last time to make sure I had taken everything, including the three boxes of 78s, and to get Marty the dog, who had been patiently waiting in his crate the entire time.
At about 8:30 p.m. I shook hands with Rob, got into the car and pulled out of the driveway, my niece’s Toyota Highlander boggled down with the weight of more than 1,000 records, including some quite precious jazz collectibles I was thrilled to now own. I called The Lovely Mrs. JC. I told her I had the records. She was happy for me. I called Dan. He was happy as well. I had a big smile on my face the entire three and a half hours back to New York. I pulled up in front of my apartment, grabbed a cart from the doorman, and piled onto it the five boxes I had filled, plus the box of 10-inch records still in Rob’s original box. I unloaded them in the apartment and sat down on my sofa, happy and content.
What happened next? Stay tuned for Part 6 tomorrow.