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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Three insider's tips for Hong Kong music loversSouth China Morning Post (subscription), March 30th
In the small store hidden away on the third floor of an unnamed building in SoHo, the shop owner — a jazz enthusiast — has a collection made largely of classical and jazz records. Careful rummaging through the racks will reveal rare gems, including...Read more
Caring for Alzheimer's: How Three Couples CopeWall Street Journal, March 30th
He spends his time doing jigsaw puzzles on his iPad and listening to his jazz records. He's aware of what's happening to his mind. “Right now he's pretty self-sufficient,” says Corrine Sylvia, his wife of 34 years. “But sometimes he gets confused about...Read more
Eliane Elias on Returning to Her Home Country for 'Made in Brazil,' Being ...Billboard, March 30th
So I recorded many jazz records and then I started bringing the Brazilian side in. Brazilian music never left me. A lot of Brazilian artists focus their careers on Brazil, since it is a large country with an audience to sustain them without going...Read more
Chris Hayes Is An Embarrassment To White PeopleDaily Caller, March 29th
We had Dirty Harry and the Naked Gun movies and most of the copyrights on jazz records. Now we have Chris Hayes. Let that sink in. Now we have Chris Hayes.” “What can we do to stop this?” pleaded Chris Bedford. “The only thing we CAN do. We make ...Read more
Todd and Adrienne Gabriel find music, love and a life in ShreveportShreveport Times, March 26th
Her mother is a pianist and fluent in other instruments, and her childhood memories consist of sitting in as her mother gave music lessons and of her father playing jazz records every day after work. The Gabriel family have become deeply rooted in the...Read more
Listening Post / Brief reviews of select releasesBuffalo News, March 21st
And now, for one of the genuinely spectacular jazz records of the spring, guitarist Dave Stryker – a stalwart of The Buffalo News concert series on the steps of the Albright-Knox Gallery – has assembled the most likely candidates in current jazz to pay...Read more
Various Artists: Spiritual Jazz Vol. 6: VocalsPopMatters, March 16th
Jazzman Records got its start as a mail-order business founded by London, UK-based “Jazzman Gerald” Short, who as a young jazz aficionado scoured the UK and the US on a shoestring budget collecting old, forgotten jazz records which at the time were ...Read more
Brussels Jazz Orchestra to make Penn State debut with 'Graphicology,' 'Finest'Centre Daily Times, March 13th
He said he remembers hearing early New Orleans jazz records being played by his father's uncle. “I really liked the sound and the vibe of it,” he said. “Somehow these two things, comics and jazz, merged together, and I started drawing short stories...Read more