Howard McGhee: Dusty Blue (1960) Parlophone

Track Selection 1: Park Avenue Petite (Golson)

.  .  .

Selection 2: Dusty Blue  (on vinyl)

.  .  .


Howard McGhee, trumpet; Bennie Green, trombone; Roland Alexander, tenor saxophone; Pepper Adams, baritone saxophone; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Ron Carter, bass;  Walter Bolden, drums; recorded NYC, June 13, 1960


McGhee had been one of bop’s premier league of trumpet-players since the Forties, alongside Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham and notable for his collaborations with Fats Navarro, a fellow addict. Few had his mastery of the instrument, however his musical career in the Fifties was dogged by spells in prison as a consequence of his addiction, as was the case with Art Pepper and many other jazz musicians. Elvis’s “Jailhouse Rock” had more truth to it than people at the time imagined – Jailhouse Bop.

The Narcotic Farm (Lexington, Kentucky) was known around the country as a Mecca of jazz because narcotics, especially heroin, was so wrapped up in the jazz scene. Some of the musicians that came through there, Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins, Howard McGhee, these people were playing in bands at the Narcotic Farm.

Harry Anslinger, the famous, and to many people, notorious, head of narcotic control in the 1940s and ’50s, remarked once that the best jazz band in the world is in Lexington. And many people that I spoke with who were musicians of that time, the ’40s and the ’50s, tell me that it wasn’t just dozens of great jazz musicians but literally hundreds of great jazz musicians…”

McGhee’s record titles unsubtly allude to his incarceration : “Maggies Back in Town“,  “The Return of Howard McGhee”.  Dusty Blue, released in 1960 by Bethlehem, is one of the  highlights of his Sixties comeback, and sees him teamed with some of long-standing bop collaborators like Bennie Green Tommy Flanagan and Pepper Adams, as they all slide seamlessly into the groove.

Vinyl: PMC 1181, UK Parlophone release of Bethlehem 6055

The Matrix

BCP12 6055 first UK pressing, by EMI Hayes Middlesex.

Collectors corner

Source: Ebay Location: UK

Sellers Description – everything “near mint”

Ebay and The Art of War (an auction case study)

This record is super-rare, and I reckoned its near mint status would be bound to attract the premium-price collectors. At an auction of a Parlophone copy earlier this year,  sold by a collector who had upgraded his Parlophone to an original Bethlehem for close to $1,000, I had been trumped in the closing seconds by an XL snipe.This was a grudge match.

From a study of the bid history in the closing days and hours, there was one visible collector out there who wanted this record as much as me. In a situation like this it pays to understand your opponent. Are they a serious record collector, a dealer, a bargain hunter, or a lotto player? What are your odds of beating them? How big is the financial risk to be sure of winning?

Ebay makes bidders 30-day history available to you. It’s what introduces “skill” into the battle of wits.

This was an unusual opponent. With record auctions, it is almost always record collectors or record dealers.This bidder made ten bids a day every day, on a bewildering array of items, – dolls, sporting goods, collectibles, only a couple of records Usually it’s just one bid hours or days beforehand.

Serious opponents only ever snipe – revealed by a column of unbroken  <1h last bids. His bidding style was macho and … “illogical”. The buyers advantage is to conceal your position until the last second. This “Dusty Blue” bidder kept going back every couple of hours upping his previous bid in a sort of “hands off, it’s mine” chest-beating ritual. Unpredictable what he will do at close, but he has no history as a sniper.

The biggest worry on any collectible rare item is if the ninja Disk Union are hiding in the wings with an XXL snipe. You can not beat people who don’t care how high it goes as they will just resell for double. Play their game and, if you win, you can get seriously burned.

I don’t normally follow the build up of an auction – just place a snipe and walk away, but this one was different. In the closing hours more bidders came forward revealing their position. It was clear this was never going to be a bargain. Two other collectors came back with second and third bids. An hour to go and it had already crossed the previous highest sale price for the Parlophone. A very Zen moment. “How badly do you want it, what is it worth to you? Do you walk away? When will you see another near mint 50-year old copy?

Three minutes to go. OMG it’s gone up further. Sharp intake of breath. Launch sniping screen, adjust snipe upward £15 ahead of the highest bid to date, and most important, cancel all other snipes currently pending:  pool all resources on one bid, forget everything else. Strategic focus. Now it’s between you and any hidden snipers. If they are in play, you lose, not worth it, sayonara. If they are not in play, its expensive but it’s yours!

The final ten seconds count down, it was too tense, I turned away. I could not watch.

That was some fight. A small amount above my house limit, though not a lot. Welcome to my shelf, Mr McGhee, can I get you a beer?  Oh, you had something stronger in mind. So tell me, what was it like playing in the Lexington Farm Big Band? Ah yes, the audience, playing to full house every night, of course. I see – a captive audience,  I guess they just couldn’t escape…

5 thoughts on “Howard McGhee: Dusty Blue (1960) Parlophone

  1. The comparison to the stereo mix I have on a Japanese CD is interesting. There’s nice reverb on the horns in your mono version, while the stereo is dry as bone. The mono sounds more spacious.


    • Interesting. With the exception of Prestige European releases using US stampers, I think everything else was locally mastered from copy tapes. The more I learn of these variations whether European or Japanese, the conclusion is that local releases may well sound different from each other, and different from the US original.


  2. Seriously awesome LP. I think I am the last bidder reflected in your graphic – hardbop33 – so I was dreaming of this one early. I have a mint Affinity reissue of this session which will suffice. For the price this LP went for I would rather buy 5 or 6 first pressing Impulse sessions – which I did!


    • Hi and Welcome. Remember: all’s fair in love, war, and collecting records. I can recommend all three, but not at the same time. I have been in your shoes many times – lost the big one and and profitted by chasing many others more reasonably priced.Hope you got some good stuff. If its any consolation, I’m having to ease back to balance the books!


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