American 50’s Record Clubs: Jazztone

Jazztone cover art sharp new

Hot on the heels of the American Recording Society post, the Jazztone record club needs to be given some attention.

R-6136877-1420540905-4637.jpegThe Jazztone Society was the first independent jazz record club in the United States, an offspring of Concert Hall Society, a classical music mail order business created by David Josefowitz and his brother Sam,  entrepreneurial offspring of Ukrainian emigres.

According to his obituary, David Josefowitz trained as a chemist and worked in the family chemicals business on Long Island. Apparently, they were offered a 20-ton consignment of vinyl resin at a bargain price, and hit on the idea of producing classical music records, setting up a mail-order record club as a marketing vehicle. The success of Concert Hall prompted diversification by adding a jazz record club, Jazztone.

Jazztone operated for three years between 1955 and 1957. Club subscribers received one record per month in the mail, with the option to decline the following month’s record. If they failed to decline an offer, then failed to pay for or return the record, they began receiving threatening legal letters instead, sort of a Law Suit Collectors Club: sue one, get one free.

Jazztone albums were usually made of licensed material from other labels such as Dial, but there were also original recordings, only available on Jazztone Records. Some Jazztone titles were issued by the American Recording Society club.

My first encounter with issues by Jazztone was  J 1243 Hot-Cool Moderne  (Rollins/Thad Jones/Zoot Sims) , I found in a record store in Nice, south of France called Crazy Rhythm. It’s a French issue, naturally, and the label was unfamiliar, until the recent ARS post brought it into context. Guilde de Jazz was the French offshoot and a similar one existed in Germany.

One impressive thing about Jazztone is the calibre of some titles among the also-ran big band/swing. Barney Wilen (Miles Davis tenor of choice on France’s  Lift To The Scaffold score) , Charles Mingus, and Tony Scott (with Bill Evans), even a Sun Ra title, there are some gems among them. The Barney Wilen disc is hugely collectible and sells at 1,000 euros.

All albums have full cover art, unlike American Recording Society titles.

Jazztone-three-covers

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Format Choice

The club issued a number of formats – 7″EP (J 7##), 10″ (J 10##), 12″ mono (J 12##) and 12″ “synchro” stereo (SJS 12##)

Half way through the 12″ series the label changes from the keyboard player to a circles logo. Initially mono, the series introduced a stereo series dubbed “Synchro Stereo” though not all titles look  like they would have been recorded in stereo, but who knows.

Jazztone-labels-x3-12inch
The European editions are as the Rollins label indicates –  Guilde du Jazz, with the co-operation of  Internationale Guilde de Disque and some titles have bi-lingual liner notes.

Jazztone audio quality


My French Rollins title is a typically gutsy mid-’50s fairly heavy vinyl pressing. I have no experience of US issues, and no information on engineering and pressing credits. If anyone can contribute any knowledge they are very welcome, including any recommended titles worthy of pursuit by collectors.

 12″ Jazztone Series (listing as per Discogs)

Here is the 12″ series as listed by Discogs contributors, errors and ommissions excepted.
Cat.No. Artists and Title
J 1201 Coleman Hawkins And His All-Stars Timeless Jazz
J 1202 Rex Stewart And His Dixielanders Dixieland Free-For-All ‎
J 1203 Art Tatum and Erroll Garner Kings Of The Keyboard ‎
J 1204 Charlie Parker Giant of Modern Jazz
J 1205 Paul Barbarin And His New Orleans Jazz Band New Orleans Jamboree ‎
J 1206 Mary Lou Williams A Keyboard History ‎
J 1207 Sam Price And His Kaycee Stompers Barrelhouse And Blues ‎
J 1208 Max Kaminsky And His Windy City Six Chicago Style ‎
J 1209 Billie Holiday Billie Holiday Sings ‎
J 1210 Ruby Braff Swinging With Ruby Braff ‎
J 1211 Jelly Roll Morton Jelly Roll Morton ‎
J 1212 Bunk Johnson Jazz Band / George Lewis New Orleans Jazz Band New Orleans Classics ‎
J 1213 Sidney Bechet Trio / Omer Simeon Trio Jazz À La Creole ‎
J 1214 Charlie Parker The Fabulous Bird
J 1215 Tony Parenti’s All-Stars Happy Jazz  2 versions
J 1216 Dixieland Classics (va)
J 1217 Joe Newman and Billy Byers New Sounds In Swing ‎
J 1218 Leon “Chu” Berry, Lester Young Tops on Tenor ‎
J 1219 Red Norvo All-Stars, Krupa-Ventura Trio, Teddy Wilson Quintet Jazz Concert ‎
J 1220 The Count’s Men Featuring Joe Newman The Count’s Men Featuring Joe Newman
J 1221 Various Combo Jazz ‎
J 1222 Jack Teagarden And His Orchestra Big T
J 1223 Eddie Bert Modern Mood
J 1224 Jimmy Yancey & Cripple Clarence Lofton Pioneers Of Boogie Woogie
J 1225 Meet Bunk Clayton
J 1226 Charles Mingus Jazz Experiment ‎
J 1227 Jimmy McPartland And His Orchestra The Middle Road
J 1228 Ralph Burns And His Ensemble Spring Sequence ‎
J 1229 Maxine Sullivan Flow Gently, Sweet Rhythm ‎
J 1230 Stan Getz Stan Getz ‎
J 1231 Kai Winding All-Stars, Sonny Stitt All-Stars Modern Jazz Spectacular
J 1232 Wild Bill Davison’s All Stars, Dixieland Rhythm Kings Dixieland Express ‎
J 1233 Albert Nicholas And Mezz Mezzrow Albert Nicholas And Mezz Mezzrow ‎
J 1234 Osie Johnson’s All-Stars Swingin’ Sounds ‎
J 1235 Dexter Gordon’s All-Stars / McGhee-Moody Sextet The Chase
J 1236 Sammy Price Sammy Price In Concert
J 1237 Peewee Erwin And His Jazz Band New York Dixieland ‎
J 1238 Jimmy Hamilton Quintet
J 1239 Barney Wilen Quintet Barney Wilen Quintet ‎
J 1239 The Bob Brookmeyer – Zoot Sims Quintet Today’s Jazz ‎
J 1240 Stan Getz Quintet /  Charlie Parker Quintet The Saxes Of Stan Getz And Charlie Parker ‎
J 1241 Charlie Parker The Fabulous Bird / The Art Of Charlie Parker ‎
J 1241 Jimmy McPartland’s Chicago Rompers, Paul Barbarin’s New Orleans Stompers Dixieland Now And Then ‎
J 1242 Jo Jones The Jo Jones Special ‎
J 1243 Sonny Rollins Quintet, Thad Jones Ensemble, Zoot Sims: Quartet Hot – Cool Modern ‎
J 1244 Jimmy Rushing Listen To The Blues With ‎
J 1245 Various Modern Jazz Festival ‎
J 1246 Lionel Hampton’s All Star Groups Lionel Hampton’s All Star Groups ‎
J 1247 Fats Waller Fats Waller Plays And Sings ‎
J 1248 Various The Faces Of Jazz ‎
J 1248 Lee Wiley And Her Friends The Songs Of Rodgers And Hart ‎
J 1249 Various The Early Jazz Greats ‎
J 1250 Rex Stewart / Peanuts Hucko Dedicated Jazz ‎
J 1251 Ernie Royal And Lucky Thompson Modified Modern ‎
J 1252 Various The Early Jazz Greats No. 2 ‎
J 1253 Gerry Mulligan Quartet With Lee Konitz, Chet Baker Quintet Mulligan And Baker! ‎
J 1254 Billy Eckstine & Sarah Vaughan Billy Eckstine & Sarah Vaughan ‎
J 1255 The Platters The Platters
J 1256 Erroll Garner Erroll Garner Plays ‎
J 1256 Don Elliott Quartet / Sam Most Sextet Doubles In Jazz ‎
J 1257 Sidney Bechet, Mezz Mezzrow Blues With Bechet ‎
J 1257 The Pee Wee Russell Sextets Peewee, The Great! ‎
J 1258 Sidney Bechet, Mezz Mezzrow Blues With Bechet ‎
J 1259 Vic Dickenson And Urbie Green Slidin’ Swing ‎
J 1260 Sammy Price & His Rompin’ Stompers The Price Is Right ‎
J 1261 Julian “Cannonball” Adderley In The Land Of Hi-Fi ‎
J 1261 Will Bradley’s Jazz Band And Ray McKinley’s Dixie Six Hi-Fi Dixie ‎
J 1262 Lena Horne And Ivie Anderson Lena And Ivie ‎
J 1263 Kai Winding, Sonny Stitt Early Modern ‎
J 1264 The Chico Hamilton Quintet / The Laurindo Almeida Quartet Delightfully Modern ‎
J 1265 Ruby Braff And His Big City Six / Joe Newman And The Count’s Men Swing Lightly ‎
J 1266 Hoagy Carmichael Hoagy Sings Carmichael With The Pacific Jazzmen ‎
J 1267 Buck Clayton’s Buckeroos And Wild Bill Davidson’s Bulldozers Singing Trumpets ‎
J 1268 Cootie & Rex The Big Challenge
J 1269 Erroll Garner Early Erroll ‎
J 1270 Harry Arnold and his Orchestra
J 1271 The Charlie Mingus Modernists Jazz Experiment ‎
J 1272 Dave Brubeck The Best Of Brubeck ‎
J 1273 Tony Parenti’s Aces / Dixieland Rhythm Kings* Two-Beat Bash ‎
J 1274 Various West Coast Jazz Vol. III ‎
J 1275 Lee Konitz at Storyville
J 1276 The Billy Byers-Joe Newman Sextet / The Eddie Bert Sextet East Coast Sounds ‎
J 1277 Cal Tjader Quartet, The Red Norvo Trio Delightfully Light ‎
J 1278 Jack Teagarden & Max Kaminsky
J 1279 Elliot Lawrence Big Band Modern ‎
J 1280 Art Tatum And Mary Lou Williams The King And Queen Of Jazz Piano ‎
J 1281 Clifford Brown’s All Stars / The Jazz Messengers With Art Blakey Jazz Messages ‎
J 1282 Coleman Hawkins, Ruby Braff, Jimmy McPartland,Eddie Bert, Joe Newman Jazz A La Midnight
J 1283 ? not found
J 1284 ? not found
J 1285 The Fletcher Henderson All Stars The Big Reunion
J 1348 Sun Ra –  Sun Ra

SJS 1236 Sammy Price Sammy Price in Concert
SJS 1238 The Fabulous Lionel Hampton And His All-Stars The Fabulous Lionel Hampton And His All-Stars
SJS 1244 Tony Scott  Magic Clarinet / Jazz Charmer ‎
SJS 1251 Benny Goodman King Of Swing
SJS 1262 Louis Armstrong And The All-Stars Louis Armstrong And The All-Stars
SJS 1263 Norma Green & Pierre Cavalli Trio Famous Jazz Classics And Ballads
SJS 1264 The Dukes Of Dixieland Play
SJS 1265 Sister Rosetta Tharpe With The White Gospel Four Famous Negro Spirituals And Gospel Songs
SJS 1266 Terry Gibbs A Tribute To Duke Ellington
SJS 1267 Sarah Vaughan After Hours At The London House
SJS 1268 The Fletcher Henderson All Stars Under The Direction Of Rex Stewart Tribute To Fletcher Henderson
SJS 1322 Dizzy Gillespie New Wave
SJS 1323 Woody Herman’s Big Band Swinging ‎
SJS 1366 The Glenn Miller Orchestra The Glenn Miller Orchestra
SJS 1414 Milt Buckner Milt Buckner At The Popcorn

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14 thoughts on “American 50’s Record Clubs: Jazztone

  1. It’s gratifying to see interest in the Jazztone label. Jazztone really offers a lot of great stuff, well recorded, well-mastered, and with quality pressings. Because of my interest in the label and club concept, I have the complete American 12-inch catalog, plus several odd-ball issues in albums with textured, mono-colored jackets with an identifying label pasted on front like the Dial 12-inch LPs, the Brunswick Classic Jazz 78 book albums, and Concert Hall 78 12-inch book albums. I also have a small number of 7- and 10-inch European albums, as well as about a dozen variants of the Jazztone Sampler. The company must have issued many thousands of Samplers because, in my experience, it is the most common issue. No 7-inch LPs were issued in the States and only few 10-inch LPs. The bulk of these two formats was issued in Europe.

    The U.S. Jazztone catalog ranged from J-1001 to J-1285, with J-1283 and J-1284 not issued (reason not known). As far as sources for Jazztone recordings are concerned 16 are Jazztone originals, 9 are reissues of Jazztone originals, 1 Black & White, 2 Comet, 7 Commodore, 5 Dial, 3 Fantasy, 1 General, 2 Grand Award Records, 1 Jazz Information, 1 Melrose, 6 Pacific Jazz, 1 Paradox, 2 Pax, 5 Period, 5 RCA Victor, 3 Royal Roost, 1 Session, 3 Storyville, 4 Urania, 4 Vanguard, and 2 Vogue.

    Jazztone release schedule announced for 1955 went from J-1201 to J-1219, but may have reached J-1223. Announced releases for 1956 were J-1220 to J-1239 but copyright dates for 1956 extended up to J-1252. Announced releases for 1957 were J-1250 up through J-1279. Jazztone J-1280 through J-1285 date from January and February 1958. By late 1956, items J-1201 through J-1236 were no longer available. The “generic” front covers with different single background colors were used on albums J-1201 through J-1239. From that point on, each cover was different using photos and artwork. Once the subscription program was discontinued in 1958, some Jazztone record began appearing in record stores. I bought my first Jazztone in Sam Goody’s Third Avenue store in the 1960s, but only became more aware of the label about 1994, thanks to an article that appeared in the IAJRC Journal.

    Jazztone always made a point of emphasizing the quality of each record’s sound quality and the first-rate quality of the pressings, which were likely done by RCA Victor. Pressings weigh from 5 to 5.25 oz. Record rims were always flash-free so they would not cut into the onionskin inner protective sleeves.

    Listed in the Complete Jazztone Catalog issued as part of the massive Concert Hall Catalogue produced in Geneva, Switzerland in 1969 or ’70, there are 43 7-inch LPs, J-701 through SJS-743. Most issue tracks included on various 12-inch LPs. By 1969 or ’70, the entire line of 10-inch LPs had been deleted from the Jazztone catalog. But when it was active, the series ranged from J-1001 to J-1040. One of the odder issues are three LPs–one 12-inch, one 10-inch, and one 7-inch, comprising a New York recording session by Lionel Hampton that produced outstanding sides that were only brought together many years later and issued on CD. The 12-inch European Jazztone catalog went from J-1201 to SJS-1269, but later issues went well past that

    • Geoffrey, I have # 49 of your book. Most compelling reading. A lot of research went into it. A valuable source of reference!

      • Thank you, Rudolf, for your kind words! You bought a really low-number copy. I used to joke that compiling and publishing the book took a little over a year but preparing for it took nearly 60! There was an American expat living in London who was writing a 1600-page book on “Wild” Bill Davidson and was also very curious about Jazztone. He and I worked together compiling information on the Jazztone Sampler. This man’s father helped develop the Wurlitzer juke box. The sexiest book I own is one of photographs of fully lighted Wurlitzer juke boxes giving off what Vladimir Nabokov called “gonadal glow.”

        • 60 yrs, I am not surprised.
          a) You wrote that Ross Russell sold certain Dial assets to CHS. So this left him free to dispose of remaining Dial assets. In Europe we had two sources of access to Bird on Dial: CHS/Jazztone and the issues on French and English Vogue, the Vogue issues being more common. (In Scandinavia Sonet issued Dial material). Have you got any details on the deal made between RR and Vogue?
          b) in the addendum to your book you gave an interesting background on the Paramount label and Steiner-Davis. The revived Paramount 10″ LP series in the fifties was mostly Bix (and Dixieland) oriented, far from the “Race Record” idea of the twenties and thirties. On the labels there is still the reference to Wisconsin. Can you comment on that?

  2. I have had # 1226 (Mingus) and still have # 1271. The latter is absolutely HI Fi and better, I would say, than the re-issue on Bethlehem (BCP 65). I never heard the original 25 cms on Period.

  3. Jazztone also released a reissue of the Pacific Jazz title “Jazz West Coast Vol.2” https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/jazz-west-coast-vol-2-1956-pacific-jazz/
    under the title “A West Coast Jazz Anthology” https://www.discogs.com/Various-A-West-Coast-Jazz-Anthology/release/5010008 Oddly enough it appears to share the same catalog number as Sonny Rollins Quintet (J-1243) https://www.discogs.com/Sonny-Rollins-Quintet-Thad-Jones-Ensemble-Zoot-Sims-Quartet-Hot-Cool-Modern/release/4045894

  4. I have about a dozen US pressings on this label, I am pretty sure they are all mono. A couple seemed slightly bright, but that’s what I get for playing mono records in stereo on Magnepans. I have never heard a Jazztone album sound as crappy as some of my Trip releases – so I thought of this label as well mastered and well tape sourced even before your blog post corroborated this. In fact I planned to and would buy literally any title I found on this label.

  5. A few fillers for the gaps in the Discogs list:
    J-1204 Charlie Parker Giant of Modern Jazz
    J-1216 Dixieland Classics (V.A.)
    J-1225 Meet Buck Clayton
    J-1238 Jimmy hamilton Quintet
    J-1270 Harry Arnold & His Orchestra
    j-1278 Jack Teagarden & Max Kaminsky

    • Thanks, all complete now aside from exactly where the 12″ series ends. There are a couple of numbers which may possibly not have been issued, and a stray number like J 1348 Sun Ra, which falls way out of sequence. Any further insights appreciated, otherwise, it’s a wrap.

      • I saw the Sun Ra record in one of the shops in Paris, a couple of months ago. I had never seen it before. It appeared to be a reissue of The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra, Savoy MG 12169…

  6. Thank you, Brad, for the plug for my book! I intended it as a reference book, although a friend keeps it by his bedside for late-night perusal. I still have copies left, even several signed by the late Paul Bacon, who designed the cover. Contact me at: dialjazz@gmail.com

    • Before you get carried away with free publicity for your book Geoffrey, do you have any inside information on the engineering and pressing of Jazztone? We have good information on American Record Society editions – RVG, Abbey Mfg – and nothing on Jazztone. Anything you can add?

  7. I have found the American Jazztone records to be pretty interesting stuff, but most of them are in bad playing condition. If you can get by that, they are worth picking up, but be prepared for a lot of grunge. In California, I find them for an average of two to seven American dollars. Prices are rising on these LPs, as they seem to be for a lot vinyl. I used to find all Jazztone LPs for one lousy dollar, as if they were throw-aways. They are fairly easily found in most of the record stores I haunt near San Francisco.

    The Bible of Jazztone is a book called “Jazz By Mail:Record Clubs and Record Labels 1936-1958” by Geoffrey Wheeler. It’s quite detailed and large, with discographies (including Dial Records), commentary, jazz life, and the like. I didn’t find it to be the most compelling reading, but if you want to know everything about Jazztone, this is it.

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