This is the big one. The unicorn. The white whale. The record that woke the vinyl collector within me. The search for this record took years, but this year the vinyl gods smiled on me, and I am now the owner of this rare bootleg album. One of the reasons why I’ve been on the hunt for this album is because it’s only available on vinyl. It was because of this and other rare Brubeck and Desmond music that’s only on vinyl that started me on the journey of record collecting. Naturally, this record has a rather unconventional background. But first…
Tune: Two-part Contention
Recorded live 25 August, 1956 at Basin Street, New York City
- Dave Brubeck- Piano
- Paul Desmond- Alto Sax
- Norman Bates- Bass
- Joe Dodge- Drums
This album is a super bootleg album made up of at least two different radio broadcasts of Dave Brubeck performances, one from 1959 and the other from 1956. Side one is a broadcast from a December 1959 Carnegie Hall performance featuring the Dave Brubeck Quartet with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. They play “Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra” by Dave’s brother Howard. The music was eventually recorded in the studio the next month and came out on the Columbia album ‘Bernstein Plays Brubeck Plays Bernstein’. The liner notes to that album mention that there three Carnegie Hall performances of the work on December 10, 11, and 13, 1959, so this broadcast is from one of those dates. By the sound of the music (stiff, tentative, with a few ‘mistakes’ compared to the studio album), I’d peg it closer to the December 10th date. The preservation of this performance on record is a great historical document and it’s interesting to compare this with the official Columbia release, but I’m more excited and interested in the other side of the album.
The main reason why I wanted to find this album was for the music on the second side of the album. The two tracks allegedly stem from a Basin Street club date on 25 August, 1956. I say allegedly because the two tracks differ in sound quality, which makes me wonder if they’re from two separate dates. Putting on my Sherlock hat (i.e. serious Googling), I discovered a very detailed schedule of the NBC radio show Monitor from the weekend of August 24-26, 1956. Scheduled for late Saturday night, August 25 at 11pm Eastern Standard Time was live music from Dave Brubeck at Basin Street, in New York City. I don’t know where the 25 August, 1956 date came from originally, but it looks like it’s accurate.
Dave Brubeck was frequently on Monitor during the mid-1950’s as well as other jazz shows on the radio, and a few of these live airchecks have turned up on bootleg CDs and records over the years, but nowhere near as many have surfaced as similar radio broadcasts from Miles Davis. The few Brubeck radio broadcasts that have showed up typically have Paul Desmond and Brubeck in great form. Live Brubeck is the best Brubeck, especially when it’s a club date. This particular lineup provided Desmond and Brubeck with a solid foundation to really stretch out and play some tasty stuff, as Desmond does on the cut above.
‘Two-part Contention’ is a Brubeck original, being a play on words based off of Bach’s ‘Two-part Invention’. The contention comes from the changing rhythms and soloists. After some improvised counterpoint, Paul Desmond launches into his solo, followed by the slower section featuring Brubeck’s piano. It’s the fast section after this that Desmond really shines. He throws a lot of different quotes in his solo, including the melody of Gerry Mulligan’s ‘Limelight’, and Brubeck follows with a solo that references the old standard ‘I Get A Kick Out of You’, before concluding the performance at the twelve and a half-minute mark. Joe Dodge’s drumming is simple, basic, but solid. His successor, Joe Morello, had a much more powerful and noticeable presence on the drums, but I like Dodge’s drumming. His occasional accents and spare playing (he only used a bass drum, snare, hi-hat, and two cymbals) are a welcome contrast to the many busy jazz drummers popular then and now.
Being a club date, there’s applause, rattling dishes, and the buzz of conversation, but it’s hardly intrusive. Taken with the info above, it’s a great example of late-night jazz from a jazz club, as heard on somebody’s radio in 1956. I wonder if people back in the 1950’s truly appreciated those days of radio when you could flip a switch and catch a club date from Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, and the other jazz greats, with barely any commercials? Those days surely aren’t coming back.
College Jazz Collector Rating: D+
It’s extremely basic, the cover is. Of course it’s a bootleg, so the bar is already low. We get treated to three stencil-like reproductions of a Brubeck photograph and an actual photograph of Leonard Bernstein himself, surrounded by a frame of… rope? Flowery banner? I’m not sure. What’s up with the ‘stereo-mono’ up there, too? The lack of any color all makes for bland cover, typical of a bootleg album. It looks like it was made in someone’s basement. More on that later. The album came sealed in shrink-wrap (!), but still has signs of a rough life, including a tattered upper spine and bent edges.
This album takes minimalism to another level. There’s absolutely nothing on the back of it. Not a thing. This is the only album I have that has a completely blank back. It’s actually kind of neat. The bootlegger provided all of the info on the front and felt that none was needed on the back, I suppose.
The vinyl is extremely thin and flimsy, non-deep groove, but in mint condition. The labels continue the trend of little information. The info that is there is partially incorrect. ‘Musical Montage’ as labeled on the cover and the label is completely false, and is in fact the musical work by Howard Brubeck entitled ‘Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra’, and the four different ‘musical montages’ are ‘Allegro’, ‘Andante-Ballad’, ‘Adagio-Ballad’, and ‘Allegro-Blues’. The four movements aren’t separated on the record, instead lumped together as one big block of music as it’s performed on the record. There were slight pauses between each movement, but the record presser didn’t bother to separate them.
The sound quality is amazingly clean for being taped off of the radio. Despite the ‘stereo-mono’ label on the cover, the music on both sides of the record are in mono.
I did some research on the Ozone label, as I was unfamiliar with it, and was surprised to discover that this album was recorded by the legendary jazz bootlegger- I mean archivist- Boris Rose. Boris Rose was a man from New York City that tirelessly captured live jazz performances of some of the greatest jazz musicians on his portable tape recorders, either by taking them illicitly into clubs (particularly Birdland) or taping radio broadcasts from his home. During jazz’s golden era of the 1950’s and 60’s, Rose documented the jazz that came through New York and meticulously kept written records of the tapes he made. He amassed quite an archive of valuable live music, and the whole operation was conducted in his basement.
Rose traded tapes between like-minded friends, and in the 1970’s began pressing some of his tapes to records and sold them in small quantities on a variety of made-up labels, such as Alto, Ozone and Session Disc. Apparently he didn’t like serious record collectors and discographers (ironic given his meticulous record keeping) and consequently provided little or purposefully wrong information on his albums.
I found about Boris Rose before I bought this album though, through late-night internet searches for rare live jazz performances. I always wondered if Rose had captured the Dave Brubeck Quartet on tape, and it looks like he did and that there’s possibly more. An article from the Wall Street Journal about Rose has made the rounds on different websites, and it is in the spirit of Boris Rose that I bootleg a bootlegged article. Bon appetit!
Wall Street Journal December 4, 2010
Elaine Rose, daughter of famed jazz archivist Boris Rose, holds a portrait of her father in front of a small portion of his many master tape recordings from Birdland and a number of other New York jazz venues.
In a dark basement in a quiet residential neighborhood in the Bronx, a well-known archive of privately recorded live tapes and acetates is gathering dust and waiting for some institution to acquire it. The Boris Rose archive, named for the New Yorker who amassed it, is so capacious, in fact, that no one has even cataloged all of it and Elaine Rose, who has owned it since her father died 10 years ago, can’t even begin to guess how much it’s worth.
“This collection certainly deserves to be in a major institution, such as the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, or Institute of Jazz Studies—intact,” said John Hasse, the curator of American music at the Smithsonian Institution.
The collection contains everything from rare performances by modern jazz legends like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane to swing stars like Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Mr. Rose’s own favorites, like Sidney Bechet and Eddie Condon. Ms. Rose is well aware of the need for finding a permanent repository; the acetates and the tapes are, she said, in delicate condition.
“It needs a home. I just can’t keep it in storage. I’m giving myself a time frame of six months to a year to do something with it,” she said.
Boris Rose (1918-2000) was one of those legendary characters who seem to proliferate in the world of jazz. He was tall, articulate, always very well groomed—and by all accounts an outrageous character. An inveterate prankster, he dreamed up a dizzying array of fake label names (including “Titania,” “Ambrosia,” “Caliban,” “Session Disc,” “Ozone” and “Chazzer Records”), many of which he tried to pass off as European imports. Most of his albums bore an address on the front, such as “A Product of Stockholm, Sweden.” But if you looked closely on the back, it would say something like “Manufactured in Madison, Wisconsin” in much smaller type.
The truth was that Mr. Rose produced them all from his brownstone on East 10th Street. He told me once that he took great delight in confounding collectors and discographers, whom he regarded as the bean counters of jazz.
“I always felt something about jazz,” Mr. Rose said in an undated interview with historian Dan Morgenstern that was taped for German television. “As far back as 1930, I listened to broadcasts from the Cotton Club. I heard Duke, I heard Don Redman, I heard Cab Callaway.”
During his years at City College, Mr. Rose practiced the c-melody saxophone but began to find his calling when he got a job at the MRM Music Shop on Nassau Street.
“As far back as 1940, I purchased a home [disc-cutter] recorder and I began to dub records,” he told Mr. Morgenstern. “For the next few years while I was in the Army, I was able to dub records for collectors who couldn’t find the originals.”
From there, he branched out to recording radio broadcasts and then live bands in clubs. “Getting out of the Army in 1946, I had professional equipment, and began to take down all of these jazz broadcasts,” he explained. “First on 16-inch acetate discs. Later on, when tape came into the picture, I was able to record on tape.”
Mr. Morgenstern remembers Mr. Rose as “a man who never sat down—he was always monitoring three or four tape recorders or disc-cutters at any given time.” For decades, Mr. Rose ran a thriving business, recording jazz wherever he could, then making and selling copies or trading them for rarer material.
He operated from 10th Street, but stored most of his original tapes and acetates in the basement of his house in the Bronx, where he raised his three daughters.
One of Rose’s tape recorders
It’s still fairly well-organized: Discs are mostly in one area; soundtracks are in one set of cabinets; 10-inch reels are in one spot and 7-inch reels in another. 78 RPM discs and LPs are all over the place. A thick layer of dust rests on top of everything, but considering the vastness of the collection, the few tapes I recently took out and examined seemed to be in good shape—though neither tape nor shellac will last forever.
Mr. Rose kept detailed notebooks of almost every recording he made. The trick, though, is to find the tape to match the written entry.
“We won’t know what’s in there—or what shape it’s in—until somebody wants it,” Ms. Rose said.
The centerpiece of the Rose archive is the Birdland Collection: Mr. Rose recorded virtually every band that played this most legendary of jazz joints, either directly off the airwaves or by smuggling a concealed tape recorder into the club.
Over time he amassed a spectacular library of modern jazz from the glory years—the 1950s. His friends found this amazing since he rarely listened to the stuff himself; his own tastes ran to Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory. Still, he documented an entire era of music, the great majority of which hasn’t been heard in 60 years.
Around 1970, Mr. Rose’s business entered a new phase when he began using some of his material for mass-produced LPs that were distributed internationally, generally bearing amateur-looking artwork and misleading information. According to friend and researcher Arthur Zimmerman, Mr. Rose rarely if ever bothered to negotiate with the actual musicians or pay mechanical royalties for the compositions (with the exception of several country albums by Gene Autry, after the singing cowboy’s lawyers got in touch). He sold Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday material to ESP Records, and a famous double-LP set of Parker at Birdland to Columbia Records.
In the end, Mr. Rose released hundreds of albums, under dozens of label names, up through the mid-’80s. When compact discs took over, he gradually lost interest. In the ’90s, he made it known that the archive was for sale, but kept raising the price whenever anybody expressed interest.
“He left it to me so I could have an income,” said Elaine Rose. “His words to me were, ‘Make money with it.’ But it’s a whole different era now.”
That was in 2010. I’ve tried to find out what happened in the seven years since, but haven’t found a thing. I sure hope somebody with more money than me takes interest in it.
The Place of Acquisition
Good old eBay. After an almost six-year search, I found this album for sale online as ‘Buy Now’ for $20, sealed and in mint condition. It’s only shown up once on Discogs since 2011, and I barely missed a sale on eBay last year. Good things come to those that wait. Like the other rare Brubeck bootleg album, I clicked ‘Buy Now’ quick, and in a week I was the proud owner of this album, probably one of the rarest if not the rarest album in my collection. A search on Popsike only turned up one result, and that was my own purchase on eBay. Despite its rarity, it doesn’t seem to go for much. A sale on Discogs ended at $10.00 and some change. Either the people selling it don’t realize it’s worth or it’s really just not that valuable. Any thoughts and comments would be appreciated!