brownie

Jazz Auction in New York

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Some pretty great stuff! I wonder what the chances of for $100 bucks winning one of those little scraps of coltrane paper or a miles' squiggle.

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... hope it goes to a museum)

I wouldn't count on it. That's why it's up for auction.

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... hope it goes to a museum)

I wouldn't count on it. That's why it's up for auction.

Hi BF,

Yeah, I know... still, one can hope!

Cheers,

Shane

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The New York Times report today on the auction.

February 21, 2005

JAZZ ENTHUSIASTS PICK UP A FEW LINGERING ECHOES

By BenRatliff

The serious bidding got under way quickly at the big jazz auction yesterday afternoon, at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater.

The auction was front-loaded with Louis Armstrong items, and the first lot contained a four-page handwritten letter from Louis Armstrong to his booking agent Joe Glaser, asking about the possibility of a gig in a Broadway theater: $3,500. An Armstrong telegram to Mr. Glaser about dental problems and a lack of cash: $1,600. The awesome lot No. 10, a bawdy 32-page handwritten letter to Armstrong's manager, Oscar Cohen: $25,000.

Guernsey's, the auction house that held the event, hatched the idea 10 years ago; in the meantime they have had auctions centering on Elvis Presley and the history of rock. But over the past year Guernsey's has made a concerted effort to contact the families of a select list of great jazz performers, living and dead, for the biggest auction yet exclusively dedicated to jazz artifacts.

The auction was originally scheduled for the 500-seat Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which is in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. But once word spread widely in mid-January, the interest grew high enough to move it to the 1,200-seat Rose Theater.

The orchestra seats were full of bidders, and many bids came in over the telephone or the Internet, which made bidder No. 944 a mysterious minicelebrity. He or she bought the long Armstrong letter, and paid $23,000 for Thelonious Monk sheet music titled "Can't Call It That."

The jazz great's son, T. S. Monk, who was at the auction, explained that "Can't Call It That," which dates to the 1940's, was really the famous Monk tune "Straight, No Chaser." His father, he said, retitled the song so it could sit on the piano at Monk's home, where Thelonious Monk's mother wouldn't be offended by the real title's reference to alcohol.

Bidder No. 944 also bought one of Monk's high school notebooks, in which the 15-year-old Stuyvesant High School student wrote in a fabulously rococo hand about why "Everyone Should Read Good Newspapers," as well as a book report on "A Tale of Two Cities." Bids started at $3,500 and finally stopped, 110 head-spinning seconds later, at $60,000.

A representative from Guernsey's explained that the bidder wished to remain anonymous, and provided only the statement, "I am a Monk fan who went to Stuyvesant." That ruled out three famous and wealthy jazz lovers, Clint Eastwood, Bill Cosby and Wynton Marsalis.

Among other things, the auction was a gauge of cultural capital, and Armstrong, Monk, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker seemed to rate highest. The highest price paid was for a King alto saxophone owned by Parker. Known to be Parker's primary instrument in the 1950's, it sold for $225,000, to another unidentified phone bidder. A few items came with minimum-bidding levels and did not sell; among them was one of Wes Montgomery's guitars, offered at $300,000.

Before the auction, jazz scholars expressed concern that many items had not been given directly to the Smithsonian or a comparable institution by the musicians' families. Scholars worried that the items would be taken out of the United States or otherwise never be made available again. (One piece, Coltrane's original arrangement for his most famous composition, "A Love Supreme," is an example. It has detailed notes in Coltrane's hand indicating that he planned five other percussionists for the piece besides his core quartet.)

The Smithsonian's American Music Collections depend almost entirely on donations. To that end, Guernsey's arranged for a letter to be sent to the winning bidders, suggesting that they consider donating the items to the Smithsonian when they no longer want them.

But Juanita Moore, the executive director of the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Mo., might beg to differ. She bought John Coltrane's dog tags from the United States Navy, for $9,000, among other items, but for her own museum.

Lewis Porter, a Coltrane scholar and music professor at Rutgers, who attended the auction, was not alarmed by the fact that so much memorabilia was going to private collectors. "I got e-mails from people all over the country saying, 'It's terrible, they're spreading this stuff to the four winds,' " he said. "But I say, what was your plan for unearthing these things? All we know is that the families have something in the attic. Now we know what they have, we can look at it, we can study it."

For some buyers, the auction was the end of a long quest. Norman Saks, a Charlie Parker collector from San Diego, bought several items, including two unreleased Parker tapes, one of them a first-generation live recording from the Symphony Ballroom in Boston, circa 1951.

"I've been chasing them since the late 1970's," he explained. In 1994 the writer Stanley Crouch called to tell him the tapes would be auctioned at Christie's in London. Mr. Saks happened to be in London at the time and bid on them unsuccessfully. Nine months ago, again by chance, he bought a plane ticket to New York, as luck would have it, in time for the auction. He bid on the tapes and bought them for $3,500. How did he feel? "Incredible," he said. "It's kind of like a sense of calm. The chase is about three-quarters of it."

A few notable musicians were in the house. Dave Liebman, the saxophonist, who has studied Coltrane as rigorously as anyone, sat on his hands during the offering of the Coltrane sheet music. "Yeah, right," he laughed, when asked if he bid. "If there was something in the $500 range, I would have loved a piece of music."

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting for this article.

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Home movies of Coltrane shoveling snow outside his house in Philadelphia in the late 1950's.

WTF? :huh:

Hope he was wearing his gloves supreme. B-)

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Home movies of Coltrane shoveling snow outside his house in Philadelphia in the late 1950's.

WTF? :huh:

#2

"Sheets of snow"

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Home movies of Coltrane shoveling snow outside his house in Philadelphia in the late 1950's.

WTF? :huh:

#3

It took a long time because his place had giant steps.

OK, I'll stop now. :g

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I decided at the last minute to drive up for this and man I am glad I went. Tons of great stuff that I hope ends up in a museum someday. Seeing Charlie Parker's alto and Coltrane's tenor, soprano and alto was amazing. I could go on and on. The program is worth picking up because it is really well done and has great descriptions of the items.

I was thrilled to be able to win Coltrane's 1965 Downbeat award for "A Love Supreme." I assure you all it is going to a good home and will be well loved. I'll post a photo when i get my digital camera working (it crashes my far-too-old computer). I tried and lost on some of the lesser original sheet music items, which all went for significant amounts, and the important pieces went for tons. An original score for "A Love Supreme" in Coltrane's hand went for $110,000, and Monk's "Straight, No Chaser (titled "Can't Call It That") went for $23,000. Another neat item was a letter Coltrane sent to Alice containing the original handwritten version of the "A Love Supreme" poem. It went for $41,000. Many, many other cool items, like Monk's smioking jacket ($4,750), Coltrane's passport ($14,000) and odd things like Benny Goodman's fishing license ($600).

The parker sax went for $225,000, Coltrane's soprano sax went for $60,000 and his tenor failed to get any bids when they wouldn't start below $500,000 so they passed on selling it.

It felt strange to see all this stuff going for sale, and I admit to having mixed emotions about it. I do plan on giving my small piece of history to a museum or something when I die, and I hope others do the same. T.S. Monk spoke at the beginning of the auction on behalf of the families and said that they wanted this to fund their foundations and generate attention to this cultural heritage and art form. He said the Smithsonian will be contacting all the winners to urge them to donate their items in their wills, etc. I like that idea, except for the fact that the Smithsonian has so much stuff that just sits in their warehouses and never sees the light of day and that doesn't seem right either. In any case, I didn't buy the item I won for speculative/profit reasons. Like many other people, "A Love Supreme" occupies a special place for me, and I am honored to just have a small token of it that once was his and comes straight from his family.

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Wow. You actually bought something, Drew. Very cool.

Unfortunately I was leaving town on Sunday, so I wasn't able to attend. It would have been a lot of fun just to be there. OTOH, I did get to go to the preview on Friday and see all that stuff.

Congratulations on your acquisition!

Edited by BFrank

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That's extremely cool, Drew! Would love to see a pic when you're able...

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FYI - Guernsey's finally posted the "realized" prices of the auction. You can download a PDF of an Excel file HERE.

The only caveat is that the list is by Lot #, and not otherwise identified. So if you don't have the catalog, it won't be much help.

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