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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YOUR VINYL DESERVES BETTERMixmag, February 27th
This is an appeal on behalf of the Vinyl Neglect Group in association with Mixmag and IKEA. In homes across the country a new form of disregard is growing. Many DJs simply aren't looking after their vinyl collections properly. Piles of dusty acetate...Read more
'Project Runway' star, fiancé mesh styles and make small Shorewood apartment ...Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 26th
I have thousands of records — jazz records from the '40s, punk rock from the '70s and '80s — a wide selection of records and music. I think of style as being more Miranda's thing. When we first moved in, there were a lot of things that were really...Read more
Dr. John on going to church, Sonny & Cher, Louis Armstrong, Cosimo Matassa ...Detroit Metro Times (blog), February 25th
I know that my father sold jazz records, bebop and Afro-Cuban music and traditional jazz. Now those three kind of musics don't exactly fit as a group. If you take with the Machito and his Afro-Cubans, and what a lot of the bands were doing back then...Read more
Miles Davis Albums From Worst To BestStereogum, February 20th
His 1959 album Kind Of Blue is a genuine musical landmark; artistically unimpeachable, it's also one of the most commercially successful jazz records of all time. It's so important in the genre's history that this year, the fiercely talented but also...Read more
Soul Jazz Records compilation of 1970s & 80s Akron/Kent bandsAkron Beacon Journal (blog), February 18th
Soul Jazz Records compilation of 1970s & 80s Akron/Kent bands. By Malcolm Abram Published: February 18, 2015. So wondering what all the graying geezer hipster musicians in Akron & Kent are always yammering about when the "good ol' days" of the ...Read more
Wisconsin jazz pianist John Harmon performs Feb. 13The Oshkosh Northwestern, February 6th
Harmon, known as "Wisconsin's Gentle Poet of Jazz," first developed a love of music while listening to his dad's jazz records as a child. His mother also played the piano, and Harmon and his mother enjoyed playing together during his childhood. That...Read more
Master of Trumpets: Classic metal album covers get reimagined as old jazz recordsVanyaland, February 6th
Earlier in the week we spotlighted an artist who gave easy listening pop artists the heavy metal band t-shirt treatment, and now the wheels of genre-swapping are spinning even harder. Brazilian artist Rafa Melandi has incredibly taken classic metal...Read more
Record Bin: How John Coltrane explored the heart of jazz on "A Love Supreme"Nooga.com, January 31st
"A Love Supreme" was one of the first jazz records I ever heard to evoke a sustained sense of emotional connection. Other records had me appreciating the technicality of what I was hearing, but this album is nothing but a barrage of honest and...Read more