Collectible vinyl jazz records run the gamut from some of the earliest blues, ragtime, and Dixieland 78 RPM recordings to bebop, hard bop, and free jazz LPs. Along the way, the genre includes big band swing, West Coast cool, and international flavors.
For collectors of jazz on vinyl, several names are legendary, but not the ones you might first expect. Sure jazz fans want their Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Cab Calloway, and Dave Brubeck, but the names they tend to gravitate to are those of the record labels that recorded the work of these and other geniuses of the art form.
One of the first labels was Brunswick, which in the 1920s was one of the biggest record manufacturers in the U.S. Back then the discs were made out of shellac and ran at 78 RPM. Brunswick artists (along with those of subsidiary label Vocalion) included the likes of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson—in the 1930s, the company pressed Artie Shaw and Gene Krupa 78s.
Brunswick did such a good job that when England’s Decca records decided to start a U.S. subsidiary, it hired Jack Kapp of Brunswick to run the new company. One of Kapp’s lasting achievements was an 11-year relationship with Louis Armstrong, who recorded 166 tunes for the label. By the 1950s, Brunswick would rerelease many of its recordings from the 1930s and 1940s on LP, bringing Jelly Roll Morton, Art Tatum, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, and Dixieland jazz by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings to new audiences.
Another early jazz label whose 78 records are considered rare and collectible is Bluebird. It began as a budget label for RCA Victor but quickly evolved into a home for the blues, particularly the work of Chicago artists Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Blues aside, one of the label’s best-known artists was Glenn Miller, who cut "In the Mood" and many other classics for Bluebird.
Continuing in this colorful vein is Blue Note records, which was founded in 1939 as a home for jazz exclusively. Saxophonist Sydney Bechet was one of the label’s first finds, but Blue Note really hit its stride after the war with recordings by Anita O’Day, Lester Young, Thelonius Monk, Art Blakely, and Max Roach. In the 1950s, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Kenny Burrell (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) had all recorded for Blue Note.
For Blue Note collectors, one of the main differentiators in the value of a vinyl LP is the pressing location. The key is the address on the labels on both sides of a record. Pre...
This pressing differentiation is also true for Prestige Records, home to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in the 1930s, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra in the 1940s, and Sonny Stitt, Zoot Sims, and the Modern Jazz Quartet in the 1950s. For Prestige, catalog numbers from 7001 to 7141 with a New York City address on the label are generally the most sought after.
Meanwhile, in California, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Bud Shank, and Laurindo Almeida were recording 10- and 12-inch discs for Pacific Jazz Records, which was founded in 1952 before being gobbled up in 1957 by Liberty Records. These days, Blue Note distributes Pacific’s short-lived, but highly regarded, catalog.
One of the unexpected outlets in the 1950s for some of the original jazz pioneers was Hollywood. For example, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet work and vocals on the soundtrack for the 1956 film High Society contributed to its brisk sales (Bing Crosby’s duet with Grace Kelly, plus other tracks by Frank Sinatra, probably didn’t hurt the disc, either). And Armstrong had another movie-related hit in 1963, when an LP version of Hello Dolly! was released to capitalize on his best-selling single from the film of the same name.
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Mad Catfish Blues Festival debuts at Santa Anita ParkThe San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 31st
I started learning from that,” Morrison said, adding that even before tuning into the radio she practiced along with her father's jazz records. Morrison's father was in a doo-wop group and would rehearse in the kitchen. While playing with her dollhouse...Read more
Dew Drop takes community on generations of New Orleans jazz journey this fallNOLA.com, August 28th
His CD, Creole Blues, is considered one of the 100 most important New Orleans jazz records of all time and he and the band have received international acclaim for unearthing and performing long lost King Oliver jazz charts. In addition to its popular...Read more
With Some Help From Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington Gives Jazz A BoostForbes, August 28th
While that pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of streams of To Pimp A Butterfly's tracks, Washington's supersized release has fared comparatively better on Spotify than some other recent jazz records. A Grammy-nominated saxophonist with...Read more
Jazz Saxophonist Kamasi Washington Shines in the SpotlightWall Street Journal, August 23rd
“And I love the fact that there is a heavy dose of 4/4 swing, which you don't hear a lot in jazz records anymore.” Once Mr. Washington settled on 17 tracks, he said he listened to them over and over—and started having a recurring dream. In it, a man...Read more
Jazz man Walter ready to make 'beautiful music'Herald-Mail Media, August 23rd
“I had listened to a lot of classical jazz records, but they weren't interesting to me,” he said. “Even though I played a lot of 'classic' jazz, I was more interested in the electric-sounding things like Weather Report, even Manhattan Transfer, stuff...Read more
The DJ Who Shook the Soviet Union With JazzNewsweek, August 9th
VOA officials were at first cool to the idea; it sounded trivial to them, and they doubted that Congress would budget the funds for somebody to spin jazz records to a probably tiny audience. They eventually decided to give it a try, and advertised for...Read more
Brampton man's passion for jazz music fuels his hobby for collecting recordsMississauga, August 8th
McPherson began collecting jazz records some three decades ago, when he lived in a rented apartment in Toronto. The man who lived in the unit above him would blast jazz songs through his record player and the sounds grew McPherson. He soon struck ...Read more
Non-jazzy artists take their chances on jazz recordsPress of Atlantic City, August 2nd
NADIA MCDONALD The Washington Post The Press of Atlantic City. There's a lesson to be learned from the bevy of outsiders, usually pop musicians, who have tried their hands at releasing jazz records, and it's a simple one: Not everyone is Lady Gaga...Read more