JJ 10/59: Wheat from chaff

Editor Sinclair Traill has a word in 1959 about too many mediocre jazz issues. Ring a bell? First published in Jazz Journal October 1959

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Earl Hines and JJ founder Sinclair Traill. Photo © JJ Archive

For some time now it has been our contention that far too many mediocre jazz records are being issued each month. Records which have little or no sales potential at all obviously spoil the picture for those good jazz releases, for the gramophone companies, whilst they do their best for us, cannot be expected to be interested in jazz in quite the same way as we are – all they are concerned with is sales.

We don’t propose to know the answers to the problem of how they can sift the wheat from the chaff, but we are quite certain that if something is not done soon the jazz record buyer may find himself without the rich harvest he is enjoying at present.

Which brings us to the price question. In recent months the larger record com­panies have made some efforts to reduce the prices for their classical and pop LPs. As yet there is no price war, but to us standing on the sidelines the situa­tion seems to resemble a group of school fifteens getting ready to battle for the inter-house trophy – amicably disposed on the surface, but all grimly determ­ined to come out on top at all costs.

Decca, Philips and EMI (Columbia and HMV) are all selling classical records at popular prices, with Decca extending their Ace of Clubs label to in­clude 12-inch pop LPs which will sell at 21s. Pye Records have hit the jackpot with their Golden Guinea series, a smart idea which through the medium of TV advertising must have done much to make several million people more gramo­phone conscious. This price reduction is in our opinion a fine and healthy sign, but how does it benefit you as a jazz record buyer?

The true answer to that question is at the moment hardly at all. Pye it is true have one (maybe two if “Lee Gotch’s Ivy Barflies” means anything) jazz item for release on their Golden Guinea label, but with the exception of Camden, who are also doing their best, the companies have so far ignored the possibilities of cheaper jazz LPs.

The Decca people have always been very sympathetic towards the jazz lover, and we are sure that the excellent Ace of Clubs series could with advantage be extended to include some jazz. Most of this catalogue is made from already existing masters. Could not the same be done for jazz? They have still a great quantity of excellent ‘standard’ jazz material at their disposal which would make up into splendid LPs, at presum­ably little cost to themselves. Such names as Chick Webb, Fletcher Hender­son, Earl Hines, and Luis Russell all spring to mind as good, sound matter for the jazz library. As we have already said Pye and Camden would seem to be doing something for us, but we would like to see this same policy extended to embrace more cheap jazz labels by the other companies.

The jazz record collector is as dis­criminating in his record buying as is his classical counterpart. If the music is what he wants and the recording and time value (an important point these days) are up to standard, he doesn’t mind digging down deep into his pocket. But we think it is time that some of the old standard jazz classics were made available to him in the same way as the popular classics are now being Dack-aged for other music lovers. Good, popular priced 12-inch LPs that will help him build up his collection, and keep him a record buyer.