The Collector's Outlook
Platterbugs continue to multiply within all the phases of collecting hot. The modern jazz record buyers clicked the cash registers in the record marts to such an extent that some ninety-four odd labels in addition to the "Big Four" haven't been able to press up enough copies. This is happening in spite of constant solo duplication by the same artists. Mr. Hawkins on the tenor has become an "exclusive" soloist on at least twenty of the labels. Mr. Stewart's bass style has a way of turning up on almost every new record one plays nowadays.
The "hipped characters" rave and rant at the "moldy figs" (pre-1940 record collector) but the large companies continue to expand their attention towards the market afforded them by the collector who can no longer find the good old ones in original form. Possibly, the major firms are atoning for the sacrifices made by the old-time collector when all old record piles were sent to the hoppers for reclaiming of the shellac.
The Fall of 1945 brought the inauguration of Capitol's four album History of Jazz series. This project was conceived and executed by "The Capitol' s" former editor, Dave Dexter, and comprises a musical depiction of jazz history recorded in the forties, but by musicians who have lived through the entire jazz era. After the recording ban was lifted RCA-Victor decided to dig into its files for old masters it should have utilized during the drought. However better late than never, the Louis Armstrong Victors, McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Hot Club of France discs are again on the catalogue. Probably the most discerning reissue program is Decca's packaging on the collector label - Brunswick - of selected albums containing some of the rarest of all jazz records. Credit for this, making available to the collector some of the hardest-to-hear vintage discs is due to the work of Milt Gabler and Eugene Williams.
Nick Rongetti's Spanier and Russell albums became collector's items almost before they came off the Presses. Recorded for distribution in the lobby of Nick's Tavern, those that were mailed out were so poorly packed they arrived at their destinations broken and cracked. Most of the best jazz is coming from Gabler's Commodore, Lion's Blue Note studios, the Steve Smith - Harry Lim supervisor sessions at Keynote, and from Asch Records. Good jazz has also come from two of the smaller labels. Bill Russell's New Orleans recordings of Bunk Johnson's band on AM records were outstanding while Clive Acker of Jump records made some interesting sides.
The collecting situation, pertaining to the acquisition of original copies, remains much the same as last year. Those that venture down the aisle of junk shops find very little fortune. There have been a couple of exceptions as was true in 1944-45. Jack Stanley, a Minneapolis radio announcer, stumbled onto four thousand records packed in orange crates stuck away upstairs in a warehouse. The take included two hundred mint copies of such items as Bix-Trumbauer OKehs, Mole and Venuti OKehs, Ellington Brunswick and Vocalion sides, Red Nichols Brunswicks, and Bessie Smith Columbias among others. Bob Lind of Chicago was on his toes when a classical record collector mentioned seeing a Creolian record in a pile of Brunswicks stashed away in a garage. There were some two thousand-odd Brunswicks in the pile still in stock envelopes. This find comprised two copies of the well-known but hard to get Chicago Rhythm Kings record, a Johnny Dodds Black Bottom Stompers (with Louis) Wildman Blues and Melancholy, a Jabbo Smith Jazz Battle, an Ellington Awful Sad, several Red Nichols sides and sundry lesser items.
Jazz discography was improved considerably in the last year. The most thorough research to date has been done by Orin Blackstone of New Orleans whose Index to Jazz is being published in pamphlet form periodically. Thus far, Volume I (A to F) and Volume II (F to M) have been released by The Record Changer. Another "Jazz Discography" (Additions and Corrections), compiled by Ken Pensoneault and Cart Sarles, managed to beat the first volume of Blackstone's index by a few days. The Needle published by Robert Reynolds sponsored publication of the Pensoneault-Sarles work. The latter booklet is not as complete nor as accurate as the Blackstone. The most unusual of the new discographies is the one printed in Paris shortly before the liberation. Very few copies have reached this country as yet, in addition to which there were only a limited number printed due to the circumstances of war. This book is the 1943 edition of the original "Hot Discography" by Charles Delaunay and was compiled and printed while Delaunay was a member of the French underground. Many additions and corrections to the 1938 edition were made, as well as a new arrangement of the material, all done while the Nazis were occupying Paris. As compared to the Blackstone work it is already obsolete and Delaunay is hard at work in Paris on a new up to date edition.
Not all collectors in the armed services forgot their hobby. W.O. (j.g.) Robert B. Sales, a prominent American collector, was able to continue his ardent collecting activities while following the invasion across Europe. He has cleared the Belgian, French and German towns of hot records, hot discographies and band posters. While in Paris he compiled a compete discography of the Swing label.
A young American collector, Fritz Oest, with the Army Engineers, was preparing for bed one night in a Dutch farmhouse. He was astounded to hear Muggsy Spanier's horn sounding through the night from upstairs. Upon investigation he found a Dutch farmer in an upstairs room knocking himself out with a pile of Spanier Bluebirds.
Another American soldier, accepting the hospitality of an Italian family, was amazed to learn that he was in the family home of the late Eddie Lang. He had dropped in by invitation for a refreshing glass of wine when he spied a guitar hanging on the wall. Being a guitarist, he asked if he might play the instrument. When he started no play, the lady of the house said that his playing reminded her of her brother. She turned out to be Eddie's sister, who had been in the States until 1939, when she returned to Italy for a visit and got stranded by the war.
Collectors in far-off places have sent some interesting records home. Most noteworthy were a series of piano solos with rhythm section by the late Teddy Weatherford, waxed in India shortly before his death. Weatherford, who played in many great Chicago bands (Erskine Tale and Jimmie Wade) had not been back in the U.S. since he left on a world tour during the late twenties.
Many collectors are now coming out of the service. Some of them are going into the record business. Ross Russell, who was a well-known collector and jazz writer before the war, spent three years in the Merchant Marine traveling from Murmansk to New Guinea. Last July he opened his Tempo Music Shop in Hollywood; it features, of course, hot jazz. Besides his work as a discographer, Orin Blackstone, too, is opening his own shop in New Orleans and conducting a collector's column in "The Record Changer." The author of this article is also planning to open a jazz studio and record store on the near North Side of Chicago. The Session Record Shop in Chicago, owned by David Bell and Phil and Evie Featheringill, has been growing on hot jazz, and plans expansion. They expect to have rental on a new pressing plant in the near future. Bob Thiele, who recently came out of the Coast Guard into matrimony and active work on his Signature Record label, is planning to enlarge his activities in the recording field.
As for jazz magazines - about all that can be said is that they are still coming out. None of them are doing the excellent research work which was accomplished by the old "Jazz Information," although opportunities for worthy contributions still are plentiful. Only "The Record Changer" is offering both a useful service (records for trade, sale, or auction) and interesting critical articles. Art Hodes' "Jazz Record," well established, offers some valuable stuff every now and then.
Jazz sessions of interest to collectors took place in several places outside of the usual New York spots. Kid Ory and His Band, with Darnell Howard on clarinet, have been playing a long run at the Jade Palace in Los Angeles. One collector distinguished himself musically during the year. Johnny Wittwer, a Seattle pianist-collector, played an engagement at the Jade Palace during Ory's intermissions, and cut some records for Asch under the supervision of Ross Russell. While in Chicago, Bud Jacobson's Jungle Kings played sessions for Phil Featheringill, the University of Chicago Hot Club and John Steiner during the past year. Steiner also presented a Jimmie Noone Memorial Concert and a Baby Dodds Riverboat Band session. During the latter two concerts, intermissions were enlivened by a revival of the Mound City Blue Blower vaudeville act featuring Frank "Josh" Billings with a suitcase and whisk brooms working with Tut Soper on piano and Jack Goss on guitar. Paul Mares, one-time trumpeter with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, owned a bar known as the Club Dixieland or a short spell. Several fine impromptu all night sessions resulted. Stars were George Brunis and Tony Parenti. These were in addition to the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts in Los Angeles; the Eddie Condon series in New York; and the 1945 Esquire Jazz concerts at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans, the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles, and the Blue Network Studios in New York.
There was a sad note among collectors when they heard of the passing of Major Hoyte Kline, in a motor accident while serving in Italy. Kline was a prominent Cleveland collector before the war and possessed one of the finest collections of Armstrong in the country.
To Norman Ackerman, of Rock Creek, Ohio, befell a mishap involving his records that should be brought to the attention of all. While leisurely having supper across the street from his insurance office one night last January, he was told by a small boy that his building was on fire. Norm rushed across the street, but in twenty minutes he had lost two thousand-odd records valued at twenty-five hundred dollars, complete sets of jazz Information and Down Beat (back to 1936), all record correspondence, recording outfit, books such as Panassie's "Hot Jazz," several copies of "Hot Discography," autographed pictures of jazzmen and many privately recorded sides. Some of these records were being packed to ship out on trades and sold-at-auction. Collectors who were expecting records didn't receive them, and Norm was even unable to write and explain, due to the letters, money orders, etc, being burned. Although he didn't lose his entire collection (he had twenty-five hundred records in his home across the street), he did lose all his twelve inch Commodore, Columbia, Victor and Blue Note records and his entire stock of Deccas and Bluebirds, in addition to those duplicates that were being sold. Collectors in the future might give some thought to insurance. Ackerman had some but not enough to cover the loss.
The only technical improvement in the record field that has come out since V-J day is the more extensive use of vinylite. RCA-Victor has announced limited distribution of a non-breakable record but, regrettably, only in the classical field. Session and AM Records have previously issued records on vinylite during the war. Capitol has been sending out plastic records as review copies.