[Dixielandjazz] Fw: Pieces of Jazz History Head to Auction Block

Stan Brager sbrager at socal.rr.com
Thu Jan 20 09:11:07 PST 2005

Coming up next month is an auction of jazz artifacts - see the New York
Times article below. Does anyone know if there are any Ellington memorabilia
to be auctioned?

Stan Brager
----- Original Message ----- 
> Pieces of Jazz History Head to Auction Block
> January 20, 2005
> There is Charlie Parker's King alto saxophone, with
> mother-of-pearl keys, his primary horn in the 1950's. There
> is Benny Goodman's clarinet, John Coltrane's soprano and
> tenor saxophones, Gerry Mulligan's baritone. Thelonious
> Monk's tailored jacket. A ribald 27-page letter from Louis
> Armstrong to his manager. One of Ornette Coleman's
> notebooks from the late 1950's, with his practice exercises
> and, on one of the last pages, one of his greatest
> compositions, "Focus on Sanity," written in pencil. Home
> movies of Coltrane shoveling snow outside his house in
> Philadelphia in the late 1950's. Charlie Parker concert
> recordings made by his wife, Chan, and high school book
> reports by Monk.
> On Feb. 20 at the Allen Room in Jazz at Lincoln Center's
> Rose Hall, Guernsey's Auction House will put all these
> items, and many others, on the block at a special jazz
> auction. Previews will be held on Feb. 18 and 19, but
> Guernsey's would not estimate how much the auction will
> make.
> "It would be folly to try to come up with a number," said
> Guernsey's owner, Arlan Ettinger. Very few of the lots have
> reserves - the secret minimum prices agreed upon by the
> sellers and the house. Nor is the house listing estimates
> in its catalog.
> Jazz artifacts have been auctioned before, through
> Christie's and Sotheby's, but there has been no single
> auction of this size entirely dedicated to jazz. And though
> there have been jazz collectors of one kind or another
> since the 1930's, it seems to have taken many of the
> families of jazz's royalty this long to dislodge the once
> mundane items, long buried in closets, that now have great
> value not only to jazz aficionados but also to the larger
> community of collectors.
> But just because these memorabilia are now turning up at a
> public auction does not mean they will end up in public
> hands, at least not right away.
> Instruments and sheet music have entered the collections of
> institutions like the Smithsonian and the Institute of Jazz
> Studies at Rutgers University - the country's greatest
> academic center for jazz studies - which preserve them and
> make them available for scholars. (The city of Kansas City,
> Mo., owns one of Parker's plastic alto saxophones, sold at
> auction by Sotheby's in 1995 for around $140,000, and it
> has become the centerpiece of the town's American Jazz
> Museum. The University of Wisconsin owns the bass that
> belonged to the great Ellington bassist Jimmy Blanton and
> occasionally lets students play it.) But institutions,
> which have limited budgets and often rely on donations by
> the artists' families to acquire material, may not have the
> money to buy many of the items at Guernsey's auction.
> Instead the pieces may be bought by collectors of modest
> means who dearly cling to their scraps of history, perhaps
> without giving them proper care. Or they might be acquired
> by wealthy collectors who eventually lose interest in them
> and, after death, release them to museums.
> "If I were to guess," Mr. Ettinger said, "sooner or later,
> the majority of this material will end up in museums. But
> it could take a decade."
> In the Smithsonian's collection lie reams of unpublished
> Duke Ellington music, Lionel Hampton's vibraphone and Ella
> Fitzgerald's entire archive, among thousands of other
> items. In nearly every case, the material was donated.
> "We'd love to have some of these things in this auction,"
> said John Edward Hasse, the Smithsonian's curator of
> American music. "But we don't get a penny from the federal
> budget for acquisitions. So we rely heavily on the good
> will, generosity and public spiritedness of musicians and
> their families."
> Alice Coltrane, the widow of John Coltrane, is the source
> for much of the Coltrane material in the auction, including
> the saxophones and paperwork. In a telephone interview
> yesterday, she said she had been approached by several
> museums in the past, including the Smithsonian, but the
> circumstances had never seemed right for her to donate
> material.
> "We got a letter about this auction in New York," she
> explained, "and I had never before considered anything like
> that. All of the instruments that we have are kept here in
> our family. But once I thought it through, I thought it
> would be O.K. if we presented some of the memorabilia."
> Some of the proceeds, she explained, will go to the John
> Coltrane Foundation, a fund that has supported young jazz
> musicians for 18 years by giving them scholarships to music
> schools. Some will go to Jowcol, the Coltrane publishing
> company; some to her own charities, including churches and
> hospitals in Los Angeles and Detroit, the Red Cross, and a
> small school for orphaned children in Puttaparthi, India,
> near Madras. She still expects at some point, she said, to
> strike a deal with the Smithsonian.
> One auction piece from Ms. Coltrane's house in California -
> the original sheet-music sketches for Coltrane's 1964 suite
> "A Love Supreme," among the most important works in jazz -
> bears explicit notes and markings in Coltrane's hand.
> ("Make ending attempt to reach transcendent level"; "Rising
> harmonies to a level of blissful stability at end"; "Last
> chord to sound like final chord of 'Alabama.' ") These two
> pages, which have never been seen by scholars, aren't just
> a curio: they will affect scholarship.
> Many objects are more important than they seem at first
> glance, revealing something about an artist's early
> interests, his psychology or the culture of the times. Also
> in the Coltrane collection is a fifth-grade school
> scrapbook, solemnly emblazoned in cut-out block letters
> with the words "Negro History Book," which indicates who
> made an impression on him in the 1930's. In it, he copied
> out poems by Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson, and
> pasted pictures of black entertainers like the Dancing
> Nicholas Brothers, Marian Anderson and Fletcher Henderson,
> as well as the etiquette teacher Charlotte Hawkins Brown.
> In Monk's school essay books, from 1933 (he was 15), there
> is a book report on "A Tale of Two Cities," an essay in an
> exquisite, old-fashioned serif-spangled hand about why
> Boys' Life is his favorite magazine, and one on the topic
> of good newspaper journalism. And in the left cuff of one
> of his tailored jackets, sewn in gold thread, is the phrase
> "Crepé Scole With Nellie." It refers, via a misspelling, to
> his tune "Crepuscule With Nellie," written for his wife,
> Nellie. That Monk would stash a secret phrase to himself in
> a hidden place says something about the hidden compartments
> of his character and his great affection for his wife.
> "My hope is that the purchasers are the more sharing
> institutions and collectors," said the jazz historian Phil
> Schaap, who helped Guernsey's evaluate the objects. "Things
> tended to go more to repositories until recently. Which
> means, to me, the suggestion that repositories don't have
> the money to buy these things." He paused. "The pageantry
> of it, though, is pretty impressive," he said. "It's all
> going to be in one room."
> Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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