The Jazz.com Blog
January 07, 2008 · 0 comments
Every now and then some jazz oddity shows up on eBay or one of the other web auction sites. In 2005, trumpet parts and a case once owned by Louis Armstrong were put on sale for $4,500. A few months later, a handwritten piece of sheet music from the pen of Charlie Christian was offered for a starting bid of $3,750. But these sums were chump change compared to the asking price for Robert Johnson's Gibson L1 – or a reasonable facsimile thereof – offered on-line to the credulous for a cool $6 million last year.
The latest eBay controversy revolves around a previously unknown Thelonious Monk 78 rpm acetate disk, apparently recorded at the Three Deuces, which sold for $500 earlier today. The disk had been found at a yard sale in a Boston suburb, hidden away in a dusty box of old records. A short musical extract was recently made available on YouTube, and struck many listeners as very un-Monkish. Of course, other early recordings of Monk make clear that his eccentric piano mannerisms evolved only gradually over the course of many years. But this snippet from his pre-bop period (if it is authentic) is especially restrained and traditional. I recognize Monk here, but only from the piano touch, not the conception. And I am not sure I could convince a jury of my peers that this is the real “High Priest of Bop” (as the pianist was sometimes known).
Above all, I am heartened by the continual discovery of “lost” jazz recordings -- sometimes coming to light a half century or more after they were recorded. I remember when the great stash of Dean Benedetti recordings of Charlie Parker showed up after forty years of rumors and idle speculation. These bootleg disks and tapes were the Holy Grail of bebop, and their rediscovery was a signal event. After this, almost anything seemed possible, especially in an art form as newly minted as jazz. More recently, we have been blessed with other great finds, such as Dizzy Gillepsie and Charlie Parker’s 1945 concert at Town Hall or Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane in performance at Carnegie Hall from 1957.
Who knows? Perhaps there is even hope that the (mythical?) Buddy Bolden cylinder recording will emerge from its hiding place. If it ever does, you will probably find out first on eBay.
This blog entry posted by Ted Gioia