Are these rare jazz records lost in your attic?

Daniel Spicer

For more than a decade, music journalist Daniel Spicer documented lost jazz classics – albums that had long been out of print and “languishing in the doldrums of unavailability” – in Jazzwise magazine.

To mark the publication of Lost In The Vaults – Rare collectables and forgotten gems from the Jazzwise archives, which for the first time brings together all of Spicer’s perennially-popular ‘Lost In The Vaults’ columns, the jazz aficionado details seven valuable and uber-rare records that might be hiding in your attic.

1. George Gruntz - Noon In Tunisia (1967)

Swiss pianist Gruntz conceived this as a meeting of cultures, bringing together a handful of European jazzers, US sax/flute-man Sahib Shihab and four Bedouin musicians playing traditional Middle Eastern reed, string and percussion instruments – taking ancient and (to many Western ears) exotic musical forms and splicing them together with progressive jazz sounds. The Bedouin pipes achieve a swirling intensity and the jazz grooves are satisfyingly deep, with Jean Luc Ponty’s violin on stinging form. This lost treasure is now so rare that even a second-hand copy of the limited edition Japanese CD reissue from 2006 sells for more than £100.

Market Value: Original vinyl sold for £60 at discogs.com in July 2018

2. Grachan Moncur III & The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra - Echoes Of Prayer (1975)

Trombonist Grachan Moncur III composed, conducted and played on this epic suite (released as a double LP). It’s clearly inspired by the US civil rights struggle – and there’s an optimistic urgency throughout to match. Seething walls of heavy hand-percussion and whirling maelstroms of furious free-fall repeatedly give way to a catchy bossa bounce with community voices raised high – like an unquenchable hope for the future of race relations in America. Fast-forward half a century to the era of George Floyd’s murder and Black Lives Matter protests on the streets of countless cities: real change sure is a long time coming.

Market Value: Original vinyl sold for £32 at discogs.com in March 2018

3. Mtume Umoja Ensemble- Alkebu-Lan: Land of the Blacks (Live at The East) (1972)

This live LP was the first release as a leader from percussionist Mtume, recorded in a Brooklyn nightspot towards the beginning of his tenure with Miles Davis. It captures an early-70s mix of post-Coltrane spirituality and socially-aware racial politics, drawing on deep, horn-heavy street-grooves, such as the African-flavoured ‘Baba Hengates,’ and powerfully swinging post-bop, as on the furiously up-tempo piano/drum interplay of ‘Saud’. But, despite the serious message, delivered in an urgent proto-rap, more than anything it sounds like a party, with enthusiastic whoops and hollers from audience and band alike. Hard to believe this killer is out of print.

Market Value:Original vinyl sold for $219 at discogs.com in May 2018

4. New Jazz Orchestra - Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe (1969)

The internet suggests ‘legal reasons’ for why this classic of 60s Brit-jazz has slipped through the cracks. Composer Neil Ardley guides British jazzers through a series of lush, orchestral arrangements including the Elllingtonian sweep of the title track. Jack Bruce, confined to acoustic bass, had only the year before survived the break-up of Cream; and there were two members of jazz-rockers Colosseum on hand: Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith. Yet it’s a tribute to Ardley’s vision and artistry that all egos seem to be subsumed in the service of his arrangements. The whole album shines with urbane grace and grandeur.

Market Value: Original vinyl sold for £200 at discogs.com in July 2018

5. Paul Bley Trio- Blood (1966)

Canadian pianist Paul Bley worked with the quintessential avant-gardist Ornette Coleman in the late ‘50s before going on to champion the early use of synthesizers in jazz. This 1966 album contains assured readings of two of the compositions he is best known for – the nonchalant ‘Mr Joy’ and the rapidly prancing ‘Kid Dynamite’, both written by his second wife, Annette Peacock. While these are both powerfully melodic statements, lesser-known pieces such as ‘Blood’ reveal just how radical Bley could be, with a fiercely churning free-fall rhythm section providing the energy needed to power his quicksilver intelligence and probing phrases.

Original vinyl sold for £149.99 at discogs.com in March 2017

6. Pedro Ruy-Blas- Luna Llena (1975)

As another autumn looms into view, and we’re hit by the full realisation that summer’s departing yet again, try topping up your tan with this sun-drenched slice of Spanish fusion. This slick Iberian offering has more than a hint of flamenco, with Ruy-Blas’s full-throated vocals belting it out with all the power and passion of a grown-up Stevie Wonder in his prime. Half the time Ruy-Blas sounds like he’s in the next room without a microphone and still effortlessly rising above the band. Musically, it’s a juicy, aromatic paella of funky clavinet grooves, rock guitar riffs and impossibly balmy production.

Market Value: Original vinyl sold for £90 at discogs.com in November 2017

7. Tyrone Washington - Natural Essence (1968)

Back in 1967, tenor saxophonist Tyrone Washington pulled together a band of jazz heavyweights for a Blue Note date that touches on several of the key styles of the day, from groovy boogaloo and heavy-swinging hard bop to lilting ballad and breezy Latin vamp. Washington’s tone, too, seems to nod to several leading players, incorporating the raw, tortured cry of Archie Shepp, the soulful abstractions of Joe Henderson and the high, pained altissimo of Albert Ayler. Natural Essencehas been released on CD in Japan twice but, here in the west, it’s as forgotten as the artist that made it.

Market Value: Original vinyl sold for £40 at discogs.com in August 2018

Lost In The Vaults – Rare collectables and forgotten gems from the Jazzwise archivesby Daniel Spiceris published by Eleusinian Press, priced £20 in paperback and £40 as a deluxe coffee-table hardcover edition. Both editions are fully illustrated with the album cover for each entry, as well as containing details on the artist, listening notes and purchase price. For more information, or to buy a copy, visit Eleusinian Press

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