Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nobody asked, but. . .

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. . .here's my single best thrift shop-garage sale find ever: 800 mint jazz 78s, including many album sets by such as Charlie Parker and Lennie Tristano, and dating back to as far as the first Louis Armstrong-King Oliver.

I was driving down a block in the L.A. Melrose area about 15 years ago, and my eye was caught by the vision of all these discs spread out over an entire lawn. A few other traditional garage sale items were peppered throughout, the usual mainstays of such affairs, i.e., the dopey broken blender, Readers' Digest sets, and the inevitable fold out wine rack. A surreal sight if ever there was one. I slammed on my brakes, parked the car and approached the seller.

When I asked the price, I meant "per disc." The woman said, "Six dollars," but I quickly ascertained that she meant for ALL OF THEM, not for one. I scurried to haul them away, starting to hyperventilate as I ran back and forth throwing them into the rear of my old beatup VW bug before she changed her mind. In the process, I threw my back out. Subsequently, I missed three days of work. But I digress.

Treasures amongst the lot included a rare David Allen (Allyn) on the Atomic label; Maxine Sullivan with Teddy Wilson and Benny Carter; Bon Bon Tunnell w/ Jan Savitt; Cleo Brown ("The Stuff is Here and It's Mellow"), an obscure but interesting singer-pianist who ended up winning an NEA grant shortly before she died a while back; singer Teddy Grace (once obscure but not so much so anymore) and lots of others singers, including my own personal discovery in that collection, Laurel Watson. There were also a few Vogue Picture discs, and tons of Tommy Dorsey, and lots of Bob Crosby. All of the discs that weren't part of commercial sets were collected in plainwrap albums with the name of the artist or genre pasted on the side. Whoever originally owned this beautiful collection took loving care of the shellac. Not an unplayable disc in the bunch.

Here's what's in one of the "Modern" albums: a Cal Tjader Savoy, Earle Spencer Orch, "Five Guitars in Flight," w/ Barney Kessel, two Buddy Rich vocal singles, the Dizzy Gillespie Dial where he's billed as "Gabriel," Billie Rogers Orch on Musicraft, 2 x Dave Bartholomew 78s, and The Continental: "My Heart Sings." Now how did that get in there?

After I drove back to my house, I began to feel guilty. So I limped to my car and returned to the site of the sale to lay another fifty bucks or so (all I could afford) on the woman, but already she'd packed up her tent. I decided to leave well enough alone. I went back home and began transferring the lot to tape, the ones I didn't already have in other formats. Thus far, the tapes run to about forty hours. From Larry Adler to Lester Young.

After that score, I realized that I could never hope to top it, and so I began to lose my scouting urge. Today, I can even drive by a Goodwill without so much as a scintilla of an urge to go in and forage. Welll. . .almost.

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