West Coasting It in The Big Apple

Well, I never made it to the 43rd Annual Jazz Record Collector’s Bash yesterday. I hope those that did make it had a good time and perhaps found some jazz vinyl or shellac gems. Instead, I wound up reorganizing the records in my New York apartment. Don’t ask. There  was no need to reorganize, I just enjoy doing it. It gives me a chance to re-explore what I have and discover records I either forgot I owned or purchased or, for some reason, never got around to putting on the turntable. Yesterday, the record that wound up going on the turntable for the first time was Richie Kamuca Quartet on Mode, Mode LP 102. No idea why I chose this because Kamuca is not someone I’ve really listened closely to very often. Turns out to be an excellent record, with Carl Perkins on piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Stan Level on drums, recorded in June 1957 in Hollywood.

Kamuca is a very bold and confident player in the Pres/Zoot/Getz mold and, on this record, is especially strong on the ballads and mid-tempo numbers, particularly “Nevertheless” and “What’s New.” I can’t say I was surprised at the quality of his playing, because he’s always been respected by people that I respect. I just never took the time to listen closely. I was somewhat surprised at the quality of the recording on the album, which is excellent. I need to take the time to listen to more records on the Mode label to see if this quality was consistent across the label. Or perhaps our readers will have their own experiences and observations to share. A quick search tells me this record in M- condition, as my copy is, will sell in the range of $300 o $400. Now that I’ve given it a careful listen, I can say pretty clearly that if/when I begin selling off my collection, this will likely be one that stays with me. I can also trace when I purchased this record: It was from the Bruce M. West collection in Baltimore, circa November 2013. I can tell from the distinctive date etched in the upper left hand corner on the back. Kind of a nice way to keep track of the amazing records I acquired in that collection.

Staying on the West Coast, and catching up on a previous jazz record on eBay, I was fairly shocked to see the final price on the Jack Sheldon Quartet Jazz-West record were were watching. When we wrote about the record (Listings and Musings on Rare Jazz Vinyl), it was in the $200 price range, and we kind of assumed it would end up at perhaps $400 or so. We were wrong. Jack Sheldon, welcome to the $1,000 bin. The record wound up selling for $1,111 with 13 bids and 6 bidders. Wow. I do not own an original pressing of this record, but I do own a reissue, which is in The Berkshires and which I will also put on my turntable this week. It’s definitely fun newly discovering or rediscovering old music on records that are already in your own collection, yes? Perhaps we should all go through a reorganizing exercise every once in a while.



  • Al, the Richie Kamuca quartet is a jewel. I’ve recently purchased a very fine copy. Not exactly for free, to say the least, but definitely worth every cent. I’m happy you share it with us. Regarding the Jack Sheldon album, i have a Jap reissue, its a fine record, plenty of short songs (from 2 10′). Sure you will appreciate this underappreciated West Coast music. I remember an unforgettable post by Rudolf about why everybody is focusing on Blue Note and forget everything else. It was question of “political correctness” and everything else. I’d like to find it and read it again…. Rudolf, if you read me, would you mind please (re) share it again ?

  • Gregory The Fish

    This is the only Mode record on the grey label that I don’t have an original of. It isn’t an essential label, Mode, but most of it is very good West Coast jazz, and I am hot on the trail of this one. What a coincidence!

  • isn’t an ‘essential’ label….? you omitted the all important qualifier: ‘to me’.

    i couldn’t disagree more. the mode catalog is amazing. one man’s ‘not essential’ is another mans treasure.

  • At the record show in St. Louis today I came across an original Mode 112 “Pepper Adams Quintet” (also with Carl Perkins and LeRoy Vinnegar, but with Mel Lewis on drums) for $1.00. Yep. And if you assumed it must be trashed, you are correct. P/P. I’ve got a nice copy already and was going to grab this just to save it from the landfill, but I put it back in the box and bought some other stuff. When I paid up the seller said, “If you want that Pepper Adams you can just have it.” So I took it. Now what?

  • geoffrey wheeler

    Everything about the Mode label is quality. Wonderful artists appear on the label (I’m not keen on the vocalists). The total package is beautifully done, including the classy label. A number of Mode albums have been reissued under the V.S.O.P. imprint and are recommended. Richie Kamuca was an excellent player, in the same neglected class as Brew Moore. In addition to Mode and other labels, Kamuca recorded satisfying albums for Concord.

    I can’t imagine the Jack Sheldon album selling for more than eleven-hundred dollars. Perhaps being on the Jazz-West label, which had a very short catalog, is part of the reason. As for my introduction to West Coast jazz, I first bought several Contemporary 1952/1953 78s, along with the 10-inch 1952 Modern Sounds Capitol album by Shorty Rogers. I later bought a copy of the 78 book album (same cover as the LP). There are some nice photo books of West Coast album covers, plus the ground-breaking 1955 portfolio by William Claxton, Jazz West Coast. Collectible copies are available for $395-$600.

  • I have about 10 Modes, and they certainly are a label that I look for. And I too am looking for that Kamuca record. I love everything about Carl Perkins and his playing.

  • Gregory the Fish

    bongohito: i mean in the wider pantheon of jazz collecting. it IS essential to me. relax.

  • I find stuff on Mode to be generally intriguing.

  • I agree. MODE has a very crisp and clean sound. One I really enjoy is the Pepper Adams Quintet (MOD-LP-112) And yes I certainly do agree about Carl Perkins who is a thoroughly enjoyable pianist. I love his work on the Curtis Counce Contemporaries.

  • Hey Al, you probably never played Kamuca because that cover looks like some bad Pat Boone pop record. At least to me.

  • i found most of the modes below the $10 mark however the warne is impossible to locate and always $$$. “interlude” records reissued some of them but the lp covers arent as fun

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