Jazz Vinyl Countdown: Max Roach, Dorham, Mobley

I was poring through my records the other day and stopped for a moment on this one: Max Roach Four Plays Charlie Parker, Mercury SR 80019. I’ve had this record for a while and haven’t listened to it in years, but it struck me as such: It features two of the great stalwarts of the Blue Note catalogue — Hank Mobley and Kenny Dorham — both in their primes; it has a great cover and a great concept. Yet, it is not really high on any list of collectible records and, in fact, we have never once even tagged it in the Jazz Collector Price Guide, which means we haven’t really seen it sell for a collectible price in the past seven years. And it struck me: What if this record, with this personnel, in this era — 1958 or so — had been issued on Blue Note? What would it be worth? Why is there such a profound difference between the value of a record like this, on the Mercury label, and a record with similar personnel in the same era from the Blue Note era? I think these are rhetorical questions, but I’m happy

to hear theories and/or explanations. One possible explanation could be the absence of Mr. Van Gelder. I have the record on the turntable now and there is definitely a difference in sound between this and the Blue Notes — although, to be fair, my pressing is a stereo copy, which means it is probably a second press and was probably not recorded originally in stereo. It’s an interesting record. Mobley is on half the tracks and George Coleman is on the other half. There is no piano, which gives the musicians more room, but it also makes it more caustic, at least to these ears. Dorham does particularly well in this environment, but he was always excellent, right? In any case, in the process of deciding records to keep versus records to sell this one . . . . will be kept. Of course.


  • EMARCY recordings are somewhat collectable. Later Mercury issues, whether 1st pressing or reissue tend not to be. You raise a good point. Certain labels are collectable without regard to the content. Others may not be even though the content may be praiseworthy. I can think a few Verve recordings that sound sublime, but are generally available for less the $20 in excellent or better condition.

  • What I think Blue Note did better than any of the other labels was brand itself. Labels like Mercury were all over the map in terms of artists and the “look and feel” of their lp covers. People aren’t necessarily buying a Hank Mobley lp, they’re buying a Blue Note lp.

  • I found a vg++ copy of this max roach record yesterday for 5 bucks at my local store here in chicago. It was in the front of it’s pile so I’m surprised nobody else picked it up. Kenny dorham really cooks, I wondered if I had the speed set at 45 for a second.

  • I think Jason nailed it. COVERS. As an artist and the son of a graphic designer, I’m still consistently amazed by Reid Miles’ ability to lay type. The guy was genius – a term that is so overused that it has lost much of it’s meaning, but I use it here with conviction. He had an uncanny knack for balancing asymmetrical lines of text in a way that seems organized, but where maybe only one or two elements actually line up. Staggering really. (rereading this it almost sounds like I’m writing about Jazz !!!)

    Then of course are the are those fantastic Wolff photos…

    It seems like there’s a formula, but a look at Wayne Shorter’s Soothsayer or those other late releases and it becomes clear that it’s not so easily copied.

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