Jul 21, 2012 Jazz Memoirs
So it came to that Monday, June 25, and I was driving down from The Berkshires to drop the lovely Mrs. JC off at her office in Great Neck and I was then to head out to Massapequa to see this record collection. And I really had no expectations about the collection and no real desire to see it and was feeling I was doing it just as a favor to the woman who sent me the e-mail to help her out because, clearly, her father loved jazz and it would be a nice thing to do. So I told the Lovely Mrs. JC, who tends to get nervous when I am around too many records, that there was nothing to worry about, that it was not a collectible collection and I would just take a look at it and give them advice and not be bringing any more records home. No problem, I said, but the look in her eyes was a familiar combination of doubt and dread.
I got to the house in Massapequa at the appointed time, put my dog Marty in a carrying bag and was greeted at the door by a muscular young man who let me in and told me his name was Adam and it was his grandfather’s collection. And then Adam’s mother appeared, and she was the one I had been e-mailing with, and introduced herself as Karen. I assumed Adam was there to ensure that I wasn’t some wacked out crazed record collecting nut, which seemed like a reasonable expectation at the time and I thought this was a wise decision on their behalf. Karen appeared to be a few years younger than me, but of my generation, and we started chatting and we had a very nice rapport because we had in common, among other things, fathers who were obsessed with jazz music and jazz records.
After chatting for a few minutes I said I was ready to see the records and Karen and Adam led me into a room towards the back of the house. In the room were four distinct record cabinets, one on each wall. I put Marty’s carrying bag on the floor and completely bypassed the cabinet to my left, not even looking at it, and went straight ahead to the largest cabinet, the one directly in front of me, because it was not only the largest of all the cabinets but it contained several records with the familiar orange and black, thick spine of the Impulse label. And when I saw the Impulses I had some hope that, perhaps, there were records of interest to me in this collection.
I went right over to the Impulses and pulled them out. They were all Coleman Hawkins. I looked at the labels: Orange. Good sign. Also, the records were in immaculate condition. On the same shelf there were a bunch more Hawkins records, mostly reissues. But it was a start. I took a glance down. Aha, I thought, the records are in alphabetical order and in the shelves under the Hawkins records were the M’s, meaning Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean. If there were to be original Blue Notes or Prestiges now we were cooking.
I bent down. Found the Mobleys. Oh, goodness: Every single 1500 Blue Note. My heart began racing. I pulled out the first one: Blue Note 1568. But as soon as I felt it I knew it wasn’t an original. It was just too thin. I looked at the back: Toshiba-EMI. A Japanese pressing. I pulled out all of the other Mobley Blue Notes. Same story. Either Japanese or United Artists. Lee Morgan, same deal. Jackie McLean, same deal: All great records, all great music, but, alas, no original pressings, nothing of any value to a collector of originals, which I am. Then I looked back up: Billie Holiday Verves. I pulled them off the shelf: Each one an MGM pressing. I looked down: Ben Webster and Lester Young Verves. Each one an MGM pressing. Not a single original in the bunch.
I started thinking: If this guy was collecting from the 1950s, why didn’t he have more original pressings. Then it hit me: Red Carraro. All of the records here I had basically seen in the same form at Red Carraro’s house – the MGM Verves, the UA Blue Notes, they all came from Red. I even saw on the back of some of the records the familiar handwriting of Red, in the upper left corner on the back, in pencil, describing the condition of the records. It was possible that the owner of these records had done what other collectors had done: Trading original pressings to Red and getting 2-3 later pressings in return. I also figured if the owner of these records dealt with Red, at some point we might have crossed paths.
Then Karen came into the room to check on my progress and to tell me something she had just remembered: Her father used to deal with some guy, buying and selling and trading records. She didn’t know his last name, but she heard her father refer to him as “Red.” Now the collection was starting to make sense: A collection of great music, great records, great artists, but not a collection of significant monetary value to me or to any collector or dealer because it was not a collection filled with original pressings.
Then I glanced over to the other side of the room, at the cabinet I bypassed on my way in. And from across the way, I could see even more Impulses, and they were all together on one shelf and there were at least a dozen of them and I knew in an instant what they were: They were the Coltranes. And I said to Karen that I hadn’t really found any records of significant value yet, but there was a ton of great music and great artists and her father had great taste in music and I’d like to keep on looking. And she said sure and walked out and then I crawled across the floor over to the other side of the room and grabbed at the Coltrane Impulses.
What happened next? You’ll have to wait for Part 3. But here’s a hint of what’s to come.