The Sonny Rollins Bridge: Why Didn’t We think of That?

It felt so good clearing out portions of my inbox yesterday, I’m going to the same today, starting with a couple of items about one of my heroes, Sonny Rollins. The first comes from an article by Amanda Petrusich in the New Yorker from April 5. (I told you I was way behind on my email). It is about a movement, now in its early stages, to rename the Williamsburg Bridge in honor of Sonny. The Sonny Rollins Bridge: Now this is an idea we can all get behind. The idea is the brainchild of a guy named Jeff Caltabiano, who has established something called The Sonny Rollins Bridge Project. When we get a chance we will reach out and find out if he has made any progress.

Here’s a second item, this one from The New York Times, about the acquisition of Sonny’s personal archive by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is part of the New York Public Library. The collection includes rehearsals of recordings and practice sessions; a Selmer saxophone; notes, letters and other written material, some musical, some not. The Schomburg Center is located at 515 Malcolm X Blvd. in Harlem. Can’t wait to check it out.

And here’s one from the Wall Street Journal about boxed sets. The article was occasioned by the release of “The Jazz & Blues Artbox,” which consists of 230 DVDs from Bern Jazz Festival Concerts from 1983 to 2002. It is 400 hours or so of music, plus 96 interviews, plus a book and booklets. Oh, yes, and the set its own cabinet as well. Five thousand copies are being produced, which seems somewhat optimistic to me, given the $8,400 price tag. But, who would have thought years ago that a single Hank Mobley record would routinely sell for more than $5,000?

Just as I’m typing this, here comes another note from CeeDee, with a link to: Blue Mitchell, Blue Moods, Riverside 336. This was an original pressing listed in VG+ condition for the record and VG for the cover. The final price was $460.55. This has always been one of the Riversides that has attracted been of high interest to collectors, so this is no surprise to me, particularly as we are seeing a huge rise in prices among collectible records in lesser condition. It used to be that the big bucks were reserved for records in top condition, not that anyone would consider $460.55 to be “big bucks” anymore.

And now one from Fredrik with this link: Lous Smith, Smithville, Blue Note 1594. And this note: “I just wanted to highlight an auction from JRC where a copy of Luis Smith on Blue Note 1594 just sold for $3300. It smashed the previous high price of $1825 by quite a distance. Quite interesting, cause the cover was less than perfect with a large tear on the front, lower right hand corner, and a bottom seam split.”


  • The photos on the Smith listing are awful.

    When I click the link, I see there is yet another 1568 up for auction

  • That price for the Louis Smith is insane.

    Amanda Petrusich is a great, great writer. Really worth keeping tabs on.

  • $3300.00 for that Louis Smith IS insane!!

  • Maybe it’s because that Louis Smith came with TWO covers ; )

  • geoffrey wheeler

    Amanda Petrusich not only writes for The New Yorker but other publications. She has also published two books. One is: Do Not Sell at any Price–The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records. On the suggestion of a collector friend, I bought the book at Amoeba Music in San Francisco. Reviewers of the book in the mainstream press think the book is about all types of 78s, when in fact the focus of the book is on early country blues records and the people who collect them. I don’t think devotees of this website would be interested in this book. I have not met any of the collectors she profiles but I know some of them by reputation by reading 78 Quarterly. Not exactly living up to its name, a mere 12 issues were published between 1967 and 2005. For any die-hard early jazz and country blues 78 collector, each issue is fascinating reading. Although young Miss Petrusich is an accomplished researcher and writer, her book held little interest for me because I collect jazz 78s, nothing else. My 78 collection goes from 1917 to the 1950s. The one reason to read this book (or at least scan through it) is to gain further perspective on her writings about music.

  • Petrusich’s book is not a collector’s guide, nor is it meant to be.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    Clifford, I didn’t say it was a collector’s guide. It is more an archeologist’s venture into the arcane world of blues collectors. Probably the most famous blues and R&B collector today is John Tefteller, who lives in Grants Pass, Oregon. He operates a number of interesting websites, each an aspect of his collecting and selling interests. John has probably amassed the largest. most expensive rare blues and R&B collections on this planet. John, who is a nice friendly man, has paid prices for rare blues records that are many times more than the rarest of rare jazz LPs. He paid $37,100 for a Tommy Johnson Paramount. John also has an excellent collection of 78 sleeves. I have examples of most of what he shows except sleeves for Vocalion Race Records (rare and expensive).

    The highest amount paid for a jazz 78 that I know of was $40,000 for the only known copy of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band 1923 recording of Zulus Ball (no apostrophe)/Workingman Blues (Gennett 5275). Russ Shor of VJM magazine is a co-owner of the disc. I have seen it, held it, studied both labels, and heard it played.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    English pianist, Ronnie Ball, was mentioned in another posting. For those who are interested, Malcolm Walker’s Discographical Forum published a Ronnie Ball discography. Malcolm also has a quarterly column in the IAJRC Journal. For readers oriented to discography, other fine European publications include Names & Numbers (The Netherlands), VJM Magazine (UK and U.S.), and some issues of Jazz Journal (UK). In the mid-1940s, Jazz Journal was preceded by the digest-size publication, Pickup (UK). One or several jazz publications in Australia have also offered discographies.

  • Terryfromflorida

    Anyways, a copy of KOB just sold for 2700 with 59 bids. Yes you read that correctly!

  • And by the way, the usual weekly ton of impossible to find Blue Notes….Including the weekly 1568, of course (does the “NY23 is the only real first” controversy is already closed ? after 56432 post regarding this issue, it is not sure). One sure thing : the higher prices are rising, the higher number of copies are getting available !!

  • 2700 for KOB is just absurd.

  • Thank for discussing the Sonny Rollins Bridge. Check out our social media for more about what we’re doing. Instagram: @sonnyrollinsbridgeproject; Twitter: @RollinsBridge; Facebook: @SonnyRollinsBridge
    Let me know if you have any questions about the Project.

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