An Introduction and A Few Things I’ve Been Watching

Nation Time

Greetings – some of you may know me from the comment threads on a number of Al’s posts over the last couple of years; I’ll be stepping in with an attempt to fill the large JC shoes in Al’s absence in a couple of weeks. Before he takes a much-needed vacation, however, I thought it would make sense to introduce myself a little bit.

My name is Clifford Allen and I am a jazz collector, though perhaps of a slightly different ilk than what generally gets discussed on these pages. While certainly Blue Notes, Prestiges and other less well-known labels in their original form are of interest, my main collecting area has long been in the realm of “free jazz” (which, if the prices on eBay are any indication, is far from “free”). I am also very into European jazz and a host of European pressings of perhaps more common or well-known modern jazz records and artists (the Esquires would be one example).

Since the early 2000s I’ve been writing reviews and conducting interviews with musicians – these have appeared in All About Jazz, the New York City Jazz Record, Signal to Noise, Paris Transatlantic, Point of Departure, Tiny Mix Tapes, Bagatellen, One Final Note, Burning Ambulance, and my own occasionally-updated (sadly, a bit less than I’d like this past year) blog, Ni Kantu.

Anyway, here are a few things I’ve been watching:

Amid the nice stack of records that Fred over at Jazz Record Center was selling, there was a beautiful-looking copy of saxophonist Joe McPhee’s second LP, Nation Time, released privately by CjR Records. This was a first pressing (there’s a second with a yellow label) in M- condition for both the record and the cover. I’ve seen these do more damage, but this copy still went for $480. Considering the fact that other titles on the label don’t go for nearly as much, and this one does appear from time to time, I’m still on the hunt for an inexpensive clean copy (hype sticker a bonus – one can dream). Perhaps the funky aspects of “Shakey Jake” bring it into the higher-priced realm? It looks like a couple other copies have gone for similar amounts recently, so it may take a while to pass through my hands.

From our friend over in Italy, bullsite2000, who tends to get very high prices for some uncommon jazz records in clean condition, there was this one: guitarist/bassist Franco Cerri and the International Jazz Meeting, an original Italian Columbia pressing from 1961 with the flipback sleeve and flat rim. Rare enough that condition was secondary, the LP was probably VG although playback might’ve been a bit better, while the cover was listed as VG+. No matter the presence of autographs (which is a little weird for such an obscure album), which I’d say would downgrade the jacket, it otherwise looked pretty bright. It still went for $800, though I’ve seen M- copies top $2,000. The appearance of such cultish European jazz figures as pianist George Gruntz and saxophonists Barney Wilen and Flavio Ambrosetti certainly don’t hurt matters.

The same seller also did fairly well on this avant-garde album, which I’ve always found intriguing as much in concept as in presentation: Nommo, a privately-issued LP from drummer Milford Graves and pianist Don Pullen, on their SRP imprint from 1966. I actually do have a copy in my collection, and it’s a nice record. This is the second volume of recordings taken from a concert at Yale University – the first volume came with a heavy-stock cover that was hand-painted by Graves himself, and features Pullen on electric piano in parts. Very heavy stuff. For Nommo, our Italian friend was able to get about $375 for a copy in M- condition for the vinyl and a similar grade for the cover, although I might be a little nervous shelling out with that sticker stain.

At any rate, happy bidding and I’ll be back with a few more from the JC underground.

14 comments

  • Abrasive_Beautiful

    Welcome, I for one am looking forward to more of your posts. I am a big fan of these early and/or obscure free jazz LPs and really enjoy reading/learning about them.

  • With love to Al a given, I’m looking forward to your fresh voice, insights, and topics. Welcome to the helm!

  • I’ve never been a huge McPhee fan and may certainly be in the minority in thinking that “nation time” is not that great. I have the CD box set, and I certainly would not pass up an original copy if it was really cheap, but the idea of dropping big dollars on this album doesn’t occupy my mind at least.

    I believe there should be a booklet or insert with this first pressing of “Nommo”? My copy is missing it as well although if I recall correctly I only spent around $75 for my copy in EX condition. The big money is spent on the other volume with that handpainted cover..one day..when the wife and kids are not looking haha..

  • Thanks guys. Mark/homefromtheforest: I know that Volume 1 of the Pullen-Graves had a mimeographed insert, but I’ve never seen one with Nommo (mine certainly doesn’t have one).

  • I’ve never seen one either but according to the Discogs listing for “Nommo” it should have a few inserts apparently.

    Anyway looking forward to your guest posts!

  • Hi and welcome. I’m so glad to read more about avant-garde and experimental jazz records from the 1960s to today, as well as “spiritual jazz” and the like. Looking forward to your commentaries! Now that most original Blue Notes and such are way out of my price league, it’s interesting to look at more affordable alternatives from Strata East, self-produced labels, and the like.

  • I am italian and those Columbia are very rare and certainly beautiful records (fully laminated, flipbacks and thick vinyl). I was lucky to find an original copy of Bossa Nova in Ex+ conditions, quite rare this item too. Maestro Cerri still performs often here in Milan, he is 89 years old now!
    About the Bullsite items in auction that copy of Roy Haynes doesn’t look the first one to me, it has the ABC NY footer on labels not the Am-Par, or I am wrong ?

  • Luciano – you are correct, that copy of Out of the Afternoon looks like a second pressing. I’m sure it sounds a treat, but it’s not a first.

  • I’ll live with my SRP Nommo in the IPS jacket good enough for me…

  • Thanks guys.

    My impression has been that most of those Italian jazz LPs from the ’60s were produced in very small runs, hence their rarity and the high cost to obtain examples. I read somewhere that jazz “wasn’t popular” in Italy at the time, hence the ‘specialty’ status of these records, but I’m not sure how true that is.

  • Hi JC readers,

    I wondered if anyone else had been watching the following auction for a white label promo of Miles Davis’ Milestones album. Despite being pressed in seemingly large numbers, these Columbia promo pressings still seem to attract very high prices; or does the fact that it was an “Atomic” auction add weight to it? Maybe I have no idea and US$355.00 is a bargain for a Mint- copy?

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/MILES-DAVIS-Milestones-COLUMBIA-White-Label-Promo-6-EYE-LP-MINT-/391278451815?autorefresh=true&hash=item5b1a035c67&nma=true&si=TqKY0wBEy2J3H3Wwq%252Bls5N2Za3Q%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

    I also note that there is a white label mono copy of Kind Of Blue on at the moment, and everything seems to fit the bill of “first pressing”, however one minor detail i noted was that the side 2 track listing was the correct way around, i.e. Flamenco Sketches first, followed by All Blues, where on the first pressing the label shows the track listing the wrong way around. Was this not the case with the first pressing promo copies perhaps?

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/MILES-DAVIS-Kind-of-Blue-Jazz-LP-Org-Columbia-White-Promo-MONO-DEEP-GROOVE-6-EYE-/181866951213?hash=item2a581d722d

    The dreaded Global Shipping Program rears it’s ugly head again on this auction, perhaps that’s why nobody has hit the “Buy Now” button. US$75.00 for shipping is outrageous, that’s $120 in my currency!

  • Hello Mike J: re the promo Kind of Blue, you made a very interesting remark on the sequence of the titles on side 2.
    I tend to believe that promos were given away every now and then during the active lifetime of an album, to boost sales when a dip has been reached. I therefore think that promos are not necessarily first issues. In the case you mentioned, it may very well be possible that Columbia have corrected the error on side two when launching another publicity drive amongst DJ’s.
    The dreaded GSP well noted.

  • Rudolf – I think you are correct, as I have a few Columbia white label promos with later matrix numbers – for example, a 2B/3B and a 2AA/2B – where there exist “regular” pressings with lower numbers. Meaning, the WLPs I have could not have pre-dated the “regular” pressings. They are still very cool and sound great, but not worth any kind of price premium, in my opinion.

  • Hi Rudolf – thank you for your insight again; I was hoping you may have had the answer. I think you are probably right on the money. This may mean that there are WLP’s of Kind of Blue that exist that have the incorrect sequence on the label, but from the points you make, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should be treated as “first pressings” as such, as they are purely for promotional purposes, and therefore when they were pressed may be not be indicated by the usual “what to look for’s” for want of a better expression.

    Joe L – good point you make with the matrix numbers too. Never would of thought or considered that.

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