Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fats and Fat Value

Fat Girl and his co-leader Tadd Dameron waxing a session for Blue Note in 1947. They're joined by reedmen Charlie Rouse and Ernie Henry. William Gottlieb photo

What is this music that we love worth? On a personal level, of course, it's priceless. Who can set a value on those recordings that opened our ears, expanded our minds, that thrilled us and touched our hearts? It's easy to get maudlin about it, but those highly individual experiences are the moments that inform the arc of a lifetime. To talk of monetary worth is to miss the point.

But now that that's out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks (whatever that means). The reason we post jazz recordings here on Gems is because much of that material is rare and (for that reason) desirable. Hence it has value. Just a few clicks away from this page is a gargantuan auction site where just about any recording in any format is available at any time night and day – for a price. Sometimes that price is modest, but many times the selling figure for a particular album is, well, astonishing. I can't help but wonder, how are these values determined?

A couple of gems – as far as collectors are
concerned. Musically, I'm not so sure.
Case in point: When I lived in Boston back in the '70s, I haunted used recorded shops eight days a week. Every now and then a deep-groove Blue Note would turn up, or a first-issue Riverside, or maybe even a 10-inch gem on Prestige would (rarely) appear. I'd buy those if I could afford them, but I'd also buy just about anything that looked interesting. I was particularly into the avant garde and I picked up loads of self-produced free-jazz LPs by unknown players. A couple of records of that sort that I came across had homemade covers and were by two gents named Michael Cosmic and Phill Musra. I'd never heard of them, but the records were 99 cents each, so I snapped them up. I don't even think I ever listened to them.

Forty years later I discovered a website that lists the selling price of records auctioned on that big site on the Internet. Maybe you know it? It's called CollectorsFrenzy. They had a listing for both of the Cosmic/Musra albums I bought those many years ago, and it blew my mind. Together these two records sold recently for a whopping $2,220.75! 

So what is this music worth? 

Clearly, in the case of Cosmic and Musra, nowhere near that much. At least, in terms of the music itself. Their sort of stuff these days is termed "spiritual jazz" and is deemed highly collectible. But musically speaking? Nah, no great shakes. 

Which leads me to offer some music that I know is of real value. Maybe not in terms of its "collectibility," but in terms of its artistry. It's also a self-produced effort, another of Boris Rose's offerings. But there's no question about the quality of the music – it's first rate.

These tunes were recorded during several successive broadcasts from the Royal Roost in 1948. They feature the Tadd Dameron/Fats Navarro sextet with special guest Anita O'Day, and the performances are without exception superb. You probably know the airchecks by this band that were released on Riverside back in the '60s. This recording only repeats one of those tunes (or maybe "The Squirrel" is a different take). 

Eager in solo flight, captured by Bill Gottlieb.
Fats is in tip-top shape, rivaling Dizzy for pyrotechnics. Rudy Williams, a former swingtime member of the Savoy Sultans, is a bit out of his element but manages to get over. Tadd comps along competently, but it's Allen Eager who is the stand-out. His tenor navigates the solo terrain deftly and repeatedly impresses. And to think this guy quit jazz to become a ski-instructor!

Anita O'Day sounds relaxed and in command. You can hear how carefully she's structured her act by the repeated "spontaneity" of the "I ain't mad at you" interjection in "How High the Moon." The pianist is listed as Dameron but the guy takes solos that are beyond Tadd's ability, at least to my ears. So maybe someone else is at the keyboard when Ms. O'Day steps up to the mic.

There's a full 60 minutes of music in this download, so give it some time to fully load. The tunes are clipped at the end in classic Boris Rose fashion, so don't blame me for that. But – at least in musical terms – you'll get some real value for your efforts.

As always, these files were dubbed from the original vinyl. The sound isn't perfect (it wasn't when the record was new), but I've cleaned it a bit and I think you'll approve. 

Fats’ Gang!
Fats Navarro/Tadd Dameron/Anita O’Day 
Talcrip TDFN 10230

Fats Navarro, tp; Rudy Williams, as; 
Allen Eager, ts; Tadd Dameron, p; Curley Russell, b; Kenny Clarke, d.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 2, 1948
1. Good Bait

Anita O’Day, v; Tadd Dameron, p; Curley Russell, b; Kenny Clarke, d.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 2, 1948
2. What Is This Thing Called Love?
3. How High the Moon

Personnel as 1.
Aircheck, New York, NY; October 9, 1948
4. The Squirrel
5. The Tadd Walk

Personnel as 2.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 9, 1948
6. September in the Rain
7. How High the Moon

Personnel as 1.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 9, 1948
8. Dameronia
9. Good Bait

Personnel as 1; add Kai Winding.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 23, 1948
10. Eb-pob
11. The Squirrel

Personnel as 10; omit Navarro, Williams.
Royal Roost, New York, NY; October 30, 1948
12. The Chase
13. Wahoo
14. Lady be Good

Find it here:


  1. This is Fantastic!!!! Thank you David!

  2. You're most welcome, Hector. Enjoy!

  3. I really appreciate this content . Thanks for the post! Very helpful and just what I was looking for!

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  4. Very nice post for several reasons, foremost for the Fats/Tadd music, but also for the light shed on folks who pay large sums of $$$ for records that are physically rare but not necessarily musically sound. I've been selling some of my collections on ebay and wish I'd held on to some of the small label avante-garde LPs I purchased in the 70s.

    1. It's funny, AC, but I never imagined any of the self-produced recordings that I collected back in the '70s and '80s would have any value beyond whatever artistic merit they might have. I do believe that the "spirit jazz" collecting mania is only a passing fad -- at least, I hope so, because much of that music is, well, pretty mediocre. Especially when compared to the great artists of the period. But maybe I'll post one of the more obscure "spirit" albums that I have, just to get folks' reaction. Stay tuned!

    2. I really like both of the Phil Musra and Michael Cosmic records. Of course, I didn't pay 1000 bucks for them. Anyway, de gustibus!

  5. Navarro has long been a favorite of mine - this sounds like a good one. Thanks so much!

  6. Thank you for keep the links actives!!!

    1. Sure, Daniel. Let me know if you find any that are dead and I'll upload them again.