Waxing & musings. My eyes narrowed a bit when I read the headline in The New York Times about a week ago: "Vinyl Record Albums and Turntables Are Gaining Sales." I own a turntable and I own albums, but sales are "gaining?"
For a reality check, I turned to Fred Cohen. Fred is owner of the Jazz Record Center (236 West 26th St., 212-675-4480), which is easily New York's finest old-school jazz record store. Which means thousands jazz LPs in mint condition and a highly knowledgeable staff. Here's what Fred had to say about jazz records, buyers and trends:
"I opened the Jazz Record Center in l983, the same year CDs were introduced. We started out as a vinyl-only store, but our inventory has since evolved into CDs and DVDs and other jazz-related products including books, posters, postcards and T-shirts. However, our commitment to vinyl continues. For 10 years prior to opening the store, I sold LPs through the mail, so I have a special love for records.
"The LP has a lot going for it. Romantically, it's a throwback to an era when the presentation of music was more visually interesting. Economically, most new LPs are no more expensive than comparable CDs, even though the CD version may have alternate takes and a longer playing time.
"The law of diminishing returns suggests that the average listener's attention span may not be up to the 70 or so minutes of a CD. This is especially true when much of the content is 'filler'—music that's added because there's room on the disc for it.
"My customers? They're primarily from the U.S., Japan, England, Italy and
France. The Internet has changed the demographic, giving greater access
to collectors anywhere in the world. Because my store has such an international audience, the state of the economy (in terms of the dollar vs. the euro) is now the strongest factor in how much business we do. For the most part, 2009 was a good year for us because it was cheaper for European and Asian jazz fans to buy LPs here thanks to weakness of the dollar.
"The rarest jazz LPs currently in my store are original limited editions of four albums—Charlie Parker's first LP [pictured], Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Gershwin Songbook, The Fred Astaire Story and an unissued Charlie Parker 10" LP. The first Charlie Parker LP was marked DLP-1 and was one of the first LPs ever released. It was sold only by mail-order at the time and issued commercially by Dial later on. This record has sold in near-new condition for between $5,000 and $10,000.
"Overall, I think the driving forces behind LPs' increased popularity with audiences that grew up in the digital age are it's cool and it's retro. But I doubt very much that turntables will win out over iPods and MP3 players in the long run."
Clare Fischer. Do yourself a favor. If you're working at your computer or traveling with an iPhone, access David Brent Johnson's hour-long podcast radio show on pianist-arranger Clare Fischer [pictured] here. If you're unfamiliar with David, he hosts Nightlights for WFIU in Indiana, and his weekly show on Saturdays at 11 p.m. (CST) is always educational and enlightening. And oh that voice...
David's show last night (yes, it's also now podcast) was It's Jazz, Charlie Brown: The Vince Guaraldi Story featuring music and interviews. This Monday, David [pictured] will post Bob Brookmeyer and Some of His Friends. On Christmas week, David will feature Hep to the Holidays. Go here and wander around a bit.
Carla Bley. Jazz musician and writer Bill Kirchner will feature the music of pianist-composer Carla Bley on his radio show tonight (Sunday) from 11 p.m. to midnight (EST). Go here to listen.
CD discovery of the week. Jack Teagarden's son Joe is selling CDs featuring rare tracks of the great jazz trombonist who died in 1964. I stumbled across Joe's site after Wall Street Journal writer Will Friedwald asked me a question about a particular album. If you dig Teagarden's early 1960s period, you'll dig Jack Teagarden: When You Wish Upon a Star.
The CD includes a radio interview Teagarden gave Bob Miller of WFLM radio in August 1963. Then there's a fabulous lineup of songs: Moon River, All the Way, Gigi, The Last Time I Saw Paris, Learning the Blues, Never on Sunday, Time After Time, Secret Love, Atcheson Topeka and the Santa Fe, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Dame Blanche and High Hopes.
The album features Bobby Hackett (cornet), Jack Teagarden (trombone and vocals), Bob Wilber (clarinet), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), Hank Jones and Gene Schroeder (piano), George Duvivier (bass) and George Wettling and Ed Shaughnessy (drums).
Each track is spirited, some in a Dixieland style, and the sound is excellent. You haven't lived until you hear Teagarden sing Learning the Blues and All the Way. Teagarden was the original saloon singer, so it's only natural that he should sound superb on material Frank Sinatra made famous. Time After Time, Secret Love and Atcheson Topeka also are superb.
When You Wish Upon a Star is available here or at Amazon. Or just email Joe: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oddball album cover of the week. George Siravo was a fine arranger for Charlie Barnet, Artie Shaw and other big bands in the mid-1940s. This album from the late 1950s is a rare Kapp release that never made it onto CD. I have no idea how it sounds, though the partial personnel gives us a hint: Charlie Shavers, Billy Butterfield, Lou McGarity, Hal McKusick, Boomie Richman, Buddy Weed, Billy Rowland and Lou Stein among others, with Siravo arranging and conducting. Hard to tell why "polite" jazz (as opposed to what?) features a cover model hailing a cab in front of a giant licorice All-Sorts.