Time to give The Jazz Arrangers a break, get back to business with a red-blooded Blue Note vinyl collecting story, one for the vinyl-enthusiast who likes a bargain, and unlike Mr Golson and his pop-jazz disaster, has a happy ending. Just not for everyone.
Fresh Selection: But Beautiful (Burke/Van Heusen,1947)
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My pick this time is the lovely ballad But Beautiful, in which Tina tears his heart out. A favorite of pop and jazz vocalists for generations, But Beautiful continues to be tapped by contemporary singers, including Lady Gaga who apparently sings, though another noteworthy jazz version was recorded by Bill Evans with Stan Getz (1964), which is sure is among the most beautiful.
Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone) McCoy Tyner (piano) Sam Jones (bass) Clifford Jarvis (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 19, 1960
Previously posted, in 2014: Division of United Artists mono (no RVG) vs Music Matters 2×45 stereo (no RVG):
And again here in 2015, I just can’t stop writing about this record, try stop me.
Hubbard’s debut as leader for Blue Note features Tina Brooks in arguably his finest setting, those Tex-Mex infused tunes so beautifully voiced by Freddie with Tina harmonies. I consider this album among the finest in the Blue Note pantheon, along side Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent, Pete La Roca’s Basra, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, and… well, Wayne Shorter’s… and…oh there’s lots of them, let’s stop there for now.
Though Hubbard is in absolutely top form, as is McCoy Tyner, it is T. Brooks that makes this album essential. To quote no bigger authority than… myself (in a previous post)….
“Brook’s solo on the self-titled track…is a delight. Like an erratically misfiring rocket, he races helter-skelter through the register, painting himself metaphorically into a corner, then escaping through an unexpected backflip into another figure; a second’s hesitation, then he’s off in a different direction, chasing up a scale and with a twist passing himself on the way back down, but backwards, reaching for a bluesy climax in a strangulated squeal. After a generous length of time to work out his ideas, Tina finds his way back to the convoluted principle melodic line which he wrote, handing over to Tyner. I’m left exhausted, having ridden pillion passenger clinging on to the notes all the way”.
What more can I say? Lots, probably. Tina was lost too fast, many lesser players got to their pensionable years. Life is unfair, unfair comes fitted as standard, that is no reason to accept it, though attempts to make life more fair often result in the opposite.
Vinyl: BLP 4040
RVG stamp, original old stock 47 West 63rd labels, no “ear” present, 152gm vinyl weight, clean as a whistle. Vintage editions of this recording are all mono, Van Gelder know-how, thick punchy mono as intended.
Collector’s Corner: one strictly for vinyl collectors.
Among my top five most-loved Blue Notes, and that is LJC hallowed status, not least for the heart-rending Tina Brooks contribution. I spent many years searching for an affordable “original” best copy of Open Sesame. Eventually I gave up, settling for the popular Division of United Artists reissue, and of course I had well-intentioned Music Matters editions. What I wanted I really wanted was the original Plastylite mono edition. Most auction copies are original 63rd labels so initially I thought this recording didn’t have a NY label second release, but they can be found, though rare. Here is an example of a hybrid – 63rd and NY mixed labels. In passing, note the top right corner of the liner notes – we’ll come back to that later.
It seems RVG didn’t cut a stereo master of Open Sesame, which perhaps accounts for the scarcity of the NY 2nd mono issue, as by then, many listeners had moved on to stereo, and the NY second release flopped. As a result, Open Sesame remained scarce and stubbornly elusive. Most auctioned copies are the original release on 63rd labels, and always mono.
Only half way through its Popsike auction history and we are still at nearly $500. Some of those described “NY USA” are actually 63rd in the detail. More important, good to see TINA BROOKS get equal billing in some of the headline descriptions. Some sellers get it.
I forgot about the record and turned off my Ebay alert. Then recently a friend tipped me off regarding a “query United Artists copy?” of Open Sesame that had just appeared in a forthcoming UK auction, with RVG stamp but no ear.
RVG, Holy F*+k! a Liberty mono, RVG stamp, pressed with original Van Gelder metal!Further detail confirmed it came with original 63rd legacy labels (though not deep groove as described), and laminated cover in immaculate condition, sharp corners! Nurse, smelling salts, I feel a fit of the vapours coming on …
Cut scene, deep space (♪woo-woo wo-woo♫): USS LondonJazzCollector, captain’s bridge, stardate June 2017. LJC: “Scotty, warp factor 9, deploy our new contactless Paypal-linked dilithium crystals, unlimited power for only 29.99 credits a month, full speed ahead. Mr Sulu, set Gixen to Stun, no, make that Kill. We must annihilate all competition, harsh but necessary, I must have this record…
Apologies to any LJC readers who may have been bidders on this auction. While we are all brothers-in-jazz, bonded together in our love of this music, make no mistake, in an auction we are deadly adversaries. I am a collector and in an auction either I win and you lose, or you win and I lose. I’m not sentimental, I am not an auction voyeur, geewizz, look how much that sold for, I am not an investor or trader. To misquote Michael Corleone in The Godfather, “It’s not business, it’s strictly personal.”
RVG stamp, pressed from Rudy’s original master; hand-over stock Blue Note original cover and labels; legacy hand-over “27 years” inner sleeve. Text-book early Liberty, pressed by Plastylite-rival All Disc, almost certainly in 1966 – six important years less wear and tear than the original release.
Initially I thought the cover was an original 1960, however, closer inspection of auction results suggests this issue by Liberty – of which I could find no other auction copies, has a cover originating from a batch for the NY label 2nd issue. It uses a different construction method: a short margin of the front cover art is folded over the spine edge and onto the back, an upper edge chamfered cut corner, then pasted down onto the liner notes. But, beautiful just the same.
As I anticipated, apart from me, there were three serious bidders among the fifteen at auction close. I guess they too understood its’ value, not the work of United Artists as the seller intimated, but as close to the real thing as possible but without the trophy-collector premium.
This is where a modern urban phenomenon, “Blogger’s Remorse“, kicks in. How many others have I helped navigate the fine art of Blue Note collecting? Bugger, should have kept my damn mouth shut.
Like a racing tipster following horses form, I have been following and participating in jazz auctions over many years. You build up a feeling for the lie of the land, a sort of mental map of current market values of different titles, though there are sometimes surprises, mostly unpleasant. From time to time people ask my advice what to bid in a forthcoming auction. I always give the same advice. I can judge what I think a record is worth, at best, based on provenance, scarcity, condition and auction history, what an auction price might be with a realistic chance of a successful bid, on a normal day. What I can’t tell anyone is what it is worth to them. It is a question every collector contemplating a bid should ask themselves, how far are they prepared to go above its market worth, to secure a successful bid. Winning for less is an occasional bonus, missing out is the big risk of realistic bidding, but bidding XXL can be dangerous if two bidders have the same idea.
Auction close came on a Monday night. By then I had a glass of a nice white northern Rhone in hand, and watched the minutes clicking down on-screen. In the final minutes, the screen suddenly flickered and the price jumped from £10 to £50 on a premature snipe. Any thought this one might pass cheaply vanished in an instant, and the big hitters had yet to show their hand. I looked away in the closing seconds, I couldn’t bear it. Instead I watched my mailbox for signs of life.
Seconds later, there it was, you’ve got mail. Oh sweet joy, “Congratulations, now time to pay”.
To answer my own question, considerably more than the final price. And that wasn’t cheap. You have to remember, this is supposed to be fun, right? No, I didn’t think it was “fun” either: painstaking research, ruthless calculation balancing risk and reward, culminating in a short adrenaline rush like I imagine someone gets holding up a bank. Welcome to collecting records, through auction. Tough, But Beautiful.