Tuesday, May 15, 2018

More Thoughts on Record Collecting, after the Pittsburgh Record Fest

Now that I'm working full time again, I feel a little better about going out and by records impulsively. Not that I really had to stop over the past year or so. But I definitely curbed my spending habits. Trips to used record stores were often just browsing sessions, or moments of anxiety over whether or not I should plunk down money that should go somewhere else.

My series of Bud Shank purchases, documented in a post recently, should offer some indication of where my head is. But also, there's another feeling I've had recently. It's not exactly hoarding but... well, maybe it is.

Jerry Weber, the former owner of Jerry's Records, is now doing online auctions at vinyl-man.com. Since selling the business (the store remains open under new management), and getting knee surgery last year, he started the auction site about the beginning of 2018. In one of his first auctions, he was offering a Clifford Brown/Max Roach album on EmArcy. The exact title escapes but it was probably Brown and Roach Incorporated. I own an original copy of the album, having bought it online. It's great; I highly recommend it, and pretty much anything with Clifford Brown's name on it. Even though I already have it, I thought it would be cool to own another copy. Mine is a little worn. I don't think Mercury - EmArcy's parent company - pressed very good vinyl. Many of mine have a bad hiss on them. Album covers at that time weren't really built to last, in terms of spine and seams. In EmArcy's case, the laminate on the album looks quite weather beaten.

The latter criteria is really what probably tempted me. I like a good album cover. While I did relish the idea of owning another copy, I bid relatively low, knowing in the back of my mind that it was a crazy purchase. And I didn't get it anyway, which is a good life lesson. Hopefully the winner appreciates both the physical item and the music therein.

Pittsburgh Record Fest #19 took place last Friday night at Spirit Hall & Lodge. I sold records at #18 back in December but that wasn't going to happen last week. In fact, I was running the Talent Show at my son's school, so whether I made it all was up in the air until the time came. I arrived nearly three hours into the Fest. In some ways, an event like this can be compared to a good garage sale: Get there early to get first dibs on all the good stuff, or don't go at all. The upshot is, go late and people are willing to make deals so they can carry less weight back to the car.

Since it was late, I decided to gravitate only to the boxes that said "Jazz" on them. I could really run a risk of blowing what money I had with me in a matter of minutes, if I looked through everything. I also wouldn't get anywhere quickly. My thoughts from the top of this entry came back to me because the first thing I considered was a copy of Roland Kirk's Slightly Latin. Yes, I already have it, but my copy doesn't have the gatefold sleeve with the cool booklet pasted inside. It was tempting.

But it's not one of Roland's best albums. And I can't remember the price tag but it was either too high for a duplicate buy or low enough to mean that the record was trashed. Back it went.

The picture above shows what I came away with. The Jazz Abstractions album seemed like a no-brainer. I have the two Ornette Coleman tracks on a cassette somewhere but they take on a different life in the context of the whole album. My jury is still out on the idea of Third Stream music. Plus, "Abstraction," the opening track which also has Ornette, sounds about as crazy any large-scale AACM piece. Maybe even more deranged. Thank you, Gunther Schuller! The side-long variants on Monk's "Criss Cross" already sound cool so this is going to be worth coming back to.

The vendor next to the one who had Jazz Abstractions pointed me right to his jazz box, where he started giving me the hard sell on A Story Tale, an album on Jazzland (an offshoot of Riverside) that was co-led by tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan and alto saxophonist Sonny Red. The band included Elvin Jones and Tommy Flanagan. Dude was virtually foaming at the mouth over this one, insisting that he'd cut me a deal since the cover was water-damaged.

I had heard about The Jazz Modes album a while ago, a group with the frontline of French Horn player Julius Watkins and tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. It too had some water damage but looked to be in decent shape, especially for an Atlantic album with a black label. The album has some pretty interesting writing by Watkins, with a few by Rouse. Sadly, it also has soprano vocalist Eileen Gilbert as the stereotypical fish out of water, wordlessly singing over three of the seven songs.

The same guy also had a Chris Connor album on Bethlehem that caught my eye. I'm not much for vocalists, but Connor does something to me. Her version of "Lush Life" is my favorite interpretation, because she really imbues the words with drama that brings them to life. The first time I ever heard her was on a 10" that my parents owned. Her voice, to my ears at that time, was like a cross between Chet Baker and my mother (who wasn't a professional singer, by the way).

I put This Is Chris back in the box. "Lush Life" is on the equally plainly titled CHRIS which I already own. I asked the guy how much for the other two. "$20. But you have to take Chris Connor with you." I wasn't going to argue there. I like deals.

For the remainder of my time there, I floated around, saying hi to vendors I knew, including my co-worker Neil, who I didn't even know was selling. I could have picked up a copy of Nirvana's Bleached for $11, making my first Nirvana purchase even. But I blew it off. (If I'm really jonesing for it, I have his email.)

Another old friend, who specializes in garage and psych rock, had a copy of Rock and Roll Disco with Fat Albert and the Junkyard Gang. One Fat Albert album has become a coveted item online, because it contains the songs that were used on the Saturday morning cartoon show. Not sure if this was it, I started looking at it. "You can just take that," my friend said. It looked pretty beat and soon it was clear that it wasn't the rare one, but I figured why not. One less thing for him to pack. However when I tried to play it yesterday, I think I heard my stylus yelp at all the scratches. That is why kids records can fetch so much money when they're in pristine shape: it's impossible to find one that's been treated so gently.

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