Here’s a music anecdote some might find amusing. I can take or leave Yard Sales, which usually feature items people are trying to get paid to throw away and mostly offer More Things To Dust. Now, Estate Sales are different. These feature big-ticket items and you get to wander through manses you and all your relatives combined could never afford (this one was listed at $2.6 mil).
We’ll skip the five-foot wooden sculptures of Quan Yin and Buddha (my sketchy understanding is that from the late-19th Century to about the 1920s, examples of Japanese and Chinese artworks were considered signs of wealth and worldliness in this area) and go right to the evidence that the early-day owners were serious New Orleans Trad Jazz fanatics.
I was told that the Music Crazies had been waiting at 8 AM when the doors opened to roar in and scoop out any collectibles and that’s fine with me — I could not compete with the Snarf ‘n’ Sell crowd from day one and now have all but zero interest in aggresively adding to to the Infinite Oldies Playlist already owned. Fascinated that this had been a trad jazz hothouse for ages and ages — had a couple dozen of those pre-LP binders that could hold 50 or so 78s. (RCA made them, a reminder of what a dominant company it had been back in the day.)
And save my NOLA soul, an absolute passel of Louis Armstrong vinyl, lots of which I’d never seen, but I’ve got all the Pops I want (mostly before he became an acceptible Negro face in America). And I noticed, to my usual annoyance with Boston racial attitudes, that the collection included 70% white NOLA Trad outfits and 30% black.
Then I ran across this curious CD: Tommy Ladnier 1923-1939 (Giants of Jazz 1997). I did not recognize this trumpeter/occasional songwriter name but he played with Sidney Bechet (YEAH!), “Mezz” Mezzrow (meh) and vocalists Ida Cox and Rosetta Crawford (absolutely interested). When it was a happening operation, the label was known for excellent analog-digital transfer (sold in lots of audiophile shops) through CEDAR and for programming cuts for variety and pleasure not chronology or some such snore.
Turns out it’s a lovely CD and the bargain of the year for $1. Don’t care that I’d heard at least half the cuts before, because when you focus on a different player, the material sounds fresh and unexplored. Particularly Ladnier originals like “Heebie Jeebies” and “Mojo Blues” (quality stuff, huh?).
Then you find out he had a strange, convoluted life and recording career. Professional histories leave out that his parents separated when he was tiny, that his mother was murdered in a bar fight when he was 15 and that he tried to operate a tailor’s shop with Bechet, which led to him dropping out of recording for five years.
So. An Estate Sale where I apprehended a ghost I had been hearing for decades without quite knowing it.