Another Adventure in Jazz Collecting, Baltimore Part 6
So now some of the best records from the Uncle Bruce Baltimore collection were in my apartment and it was about 1 in the morning and, of course, I couldn’t sleep knowing the records were sitting there waiting to be perused. I moved the records from boxes to crates and began just looking through them one more time, this time with no hurry, no rush. It was a great moment, a man, a dog and his score. I didn’t listen to any of the records at this point. There was just something about keeping them as a whole and letting the feeling linger that I didn’t want to disturb.
When morning came I had to get ready for the WFMU Record Fair. I already had 14 boxes of other records in my cramped apartment. I started looking through the Baltimore collection to see if there was anything obvious I could pull out and possibly sell at the record show. I found a few items: There were three Sonny Rollins Blue Notes I now had in triplicates; the copy of Mating Call was an upgrade from my copy; I already had two mint copies of Study in Brown, so I could sell a spare. Same with John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio, Prestige 7123, and one of the Bud Powell Blue Notes
I put those records in a separate box and brought them to the fair. I set up my table at about 2:30 and by 4 p.m. most of those records were gone, sold to a couple of dealers from Japan. By the end of the day Saturday, they were all gone.
The rest of the records in my apartment were sitting there, still unplayed through the weekend. I was still just looking at them, marveling at their condition, trying to figure out what to do with their packaging. Many were still in their original rice paper sleeves and loose plastic outer sleeves. These sleeves were all more than 50 years old. I couldn’t really keep the records in those old, dirty sleeves, could I? But they looked so good in those sleeves and it really did give me the feeling of walking into a record store and perusing the bins in 1957 or 1958. I moved some of the records to new inner and outer sleeves, especially those that didn’t have inner sleeves to begin with, and they certainly looked safer that way. But I didn’t go all the way. Even now, as the records sit in my living room nearly two weeks later, some of the records are in new sleeves, and some are still in the original packaging from the 1950s.
There was one other important matter, of course. My niece’s Toyota Highlander was sitting on 81st Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with 15 boxes of records from the era of classic jazz recordings, including three boxes of 78s whose contents were a mystery to me. And there was to be a point soon where my niece needed her car back. There was no room in the apartment for these records. The only options were to bring them to storage or bring them to my house in The Berkshires, where there is plenty of room. The decision was easy: If I put them in storage, I wouldn’t really get to go through them. The plan was to drive to The Berkshires and, at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, November 26, Marty and I got in the car and headed for the country.
I had a conference call with a client when I got there, then I was on deadline to do three other writing projects. But the records were too powerful a presence to ignore. I unloaded them all from the car, put the 12-inch LPs in one corner and isolated the three boxes of 78s that I hadn’t previously explored. Remember, I didn’t even know these records existed until I arrived in Rob’s apartment in Baltimore.The boxes containing the 78s were the same types of Home Depot boxes as those that had the LPs. They were not sturdy and were, literally, coming apart at the seams from the weight of the 78s. I opened the first one. There a bunch of 78s, no sleeves, wrapped in an old cloth, probably the same cloth wrapping for more than 50 years. Nothing special in this batch. A lot of gospel music, which didn’t interest me.
As a dug deeper into the Home Depot box, the findings become more and more interesting. A whole group of Prestige 78s, all in perfect, unplayed condition. As I was digging through the boxes, I realized I wanted to share this with Dan, who, like me, has a passion for 78s. I called him up. I’m going through the 78 boxes now, I told him. Then, as I kept going through records I would read him the titles. A bunch of Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt and even a few Sonny Rollins 78s on Prestige, and then, finally, the first of the familiar blue and white labels, the Blue Notes. Bud Powell, Tadd Dameron, Miles Davis. All in pristine condition.
As I was going through these records, with Dan on the line, there was one obvious gap that we both realized: Where were the Bird records, specifically the Dials? Uncle Bruce must have had at least some of the Birds. I told Dan I had to go, but would call him back if/when I found the Birds. Sure enough, five minutes later, I discovered an old Capital Records carton. On the outside, in Uncle Bruce’s now familiar handwriting, were the words:
“Chas Parker, Assorted Mercury, Dial, Savoy, 1-1-54”
I opened the box and called Dan.
What happened next? Stay tuned for Part 7 tomorrow.