San Francisco Jazz

Local S.F. Jazz LP: The Culprit’s Blues by Culp & Co.

Just before Covid-19 locked down San Francisco, I had stumbled into Noise Records in the Outer Richmond. Sara, the owner’s mom (and one of the sweetest ladies on the planet), was playing this amazing jazz record. I thought it was a Dexter Gordon or Horace Silver session. The musicianship was phenomenal. The sophisticated structure of the compositions were full of catchy melodies. The recording quality was high. This had to be a Blue Note or Prestige title.

However, turned out it was a record by a group of young jazz men from the Bay Area. The leader of the quintet is the pianist Nick Culp and features Sara’s son, Daniel Brown (owner of Noise), on saxophone. All the compositions are by Culp and the record was released in 2017 on his very own Oakland-based label Gutbucket Records. The cover photo, just as striking as the music it houses, is from the butterfly collection of and serves a beautiful ode to Culp’s late father. The featured genus of buttefly are termed “blues” – capturing also one of the jazz styles played on the record.

Besides being a fresh record, we’re extra happy its a local record. Like other noteworthy, contemporary jazz LPs being made around the world, this too keeps the genre alive by contributing a new vocabulary to its language. It does not merely regurgitate a bluesy hard bop style but rather make a new record within the sub genre. It’s not Dexter or Horace, it’s Nick Culp. For all you listening to Kamasi, Yussef Kamal, Greg Foat, Muriel Grossmann, and the like, we recommend adding Culp to that roster. Serious jazz is also being played right under our noses. Peep the opening track here: First batch has sold out but more should be available in shop when doors reopen.

Boys Don't Cry Cure

The Cure “Boys Don’t Cry” UK 45 Single

Growing up in the 80s, New Wave music was always in our ears. Either from the stereo in mom’s Volvo or the rooms of older, much more musically dialed in, cousins. Joy Division, The Smiths, O.M.D. and especially The Cure. Therefore, it’s always exciting when Cure items walk in the door of the shop. Like this gorgeous UK only 45 single of Boys Don’t Cry, which had never appeared on our radar before. The B-side contains Plastic Passion. The Cure released the single in 1979 (#5 in their catalogue); one year before the release of their second LP of the same name.

Plastic Passion Cure

We love everything about this two track release. From the gorgeous cover art to the provocative song titles. The black-and-white, masculine military photo clashes with the purple and blue color scheme of the background. Perfectly underscoring the song title itself. 5’2″ Helga, on the other hand, reads like an advertisement in the back of naughty magazine. This also give the single that sort of do-it-yourself feel – typical of the post-punk, zine reading aesthetic. This rich texture is somewhat lost on the New Zealand version of the single, which opted for an all black-and-white look:

Cure Disintegration Picture Disc

From the same collection came a picture disc version of The Cure’s Disintegration. The packaging in and of itself is a work of art. The translucent inner sleeve is laced with light blue flowers. The disc is also translucent with the original cover art on one side while the other is a negative image of the flower layout on the sleeve. When you insert the disc inside the sleeve, you actually create another art piece. Unfortunately, the cover makes no mention of its designer but it’s safe to say they knew what they were doing. This has to be one of the most stunning cover packages we’ve seen on any album.

The Cure Disintegration
David Bowie Monsters

David Bowie Single “Up the Hill Backwards”

“Up the Hill Backwards” is the fourth and final single from Bowie’s 1980 LP release Monsters. The B-Side features an unreleased instrumental track entitled “Crystal Japan.” Particularly special to this 12inch is the accompanying bonus material. A 12 x 12 sheet of stamps designed by Bowie himself. The fact that the perforations holding the sheet together are still in tact is a miracle. Typically things like this don’t survive 40 years of handling.

The images are of Bowie in his Pierrot clown costume. It appears that Bowie took the photo sheet and colored them in with felt pens, adding some text to a few while crossing others out with an X, which gives the sheet a feel of a “work in progress.” The front and back of the single’s cover bear the same aesthetic with a dulled pastel variation. A must for any Bowie fan.

David Bowie Single
John Lee Hooker The Healer

Promo Cassette of John Lee Hooker’s “The Healer”

Released in 1989, John Lee Hooker’s “The Healer” was the first of a series of his later albums that reached chart success in the U.S. and U.K. It featured big names like Carlos Santana, Charlie Musselwhite, and Bonnie Raitt. The band backing Hooker for the session includes the jazz drummer Ndugu Chancler. If you’re into Jazz-Funk you’ve definitely heard this man on one of your favorite LPs. Check his featured performance credits on Discogs.

Shortly after releasing this record, Hooker started hanging out in San Francisco. In particular, he could be seen at a club here in the Fillmore at what was then called Jack’s Tavern. As the story goes, Hooker liked the house band and came whenever he could to hear them play. When one of its longtime bartenders purchased the club, he changed the name to the Boom Boom Room after Hooker’s most famous song. Some say the blues man was part owner of the club but it appears the rumor is untrue – Hooker’s manager wouldn’t let him do it out of fear that the association might besmirch his name.

For further info on John Lee and the Boom Boom Room check the article

Open Sesame Blue Note Records

Freddie Hubbard’s “Open Sesame” on Blue Note.

This is one of those unbelievably rare jazz records. Freddie’s first album as a leader and his first on Blue Note. 1960. The players accompanying him and his trumpet are the best-of-the-best. Tina Brooks on Tenor Sax, who also wrote two of the six compositions on the album. McCoy Tyner on piano, who would soon become part of Coltrane’s outfit. Sam Jones on Bass and Clifford Jarvis on Drums. Here everyone brings their A-game and the energy of young talent on the session is palpable to the ear from the very first note.

Adding to its rarity is the fact that Blue Note did not repress the record as often as it did other titles in its catalogue: This original has all the indicators of the first mono: 47 West 63rd. address, deep groove on both sides, RVG stamp, “ear” mark. The cover is split but since it’s laminated, the image has held up nicely. It plays a weak VG with some crackle and a few ticks but no distortion. Sounds even better after an ultrasonic cleaning. Might sound better yet on a true mono cartridge.

The fact that it has held up so nicely is a testament to the quality Blue Note put in to both their covers and pressings. This thing looks rough but sounds astonishingly rich, as if you’re in the studio with them. Some say it’s because of the “deep groove,” but this is a misconception often supported by collectors / fanatics. The sound quality of Blue Note persisted well into the 80s. Van Gelder, the recording engineer for all the early sessions, continued on to remaster the various pressing as technology changed. For more on the Deep Groove check out:

White Label Promo Charles Mingus

White Label Promo of Charles Mingus “Ah Um”

What is it that attracts collectors to the White Label Promo? The promo is even earlier than the coveted first press. An advanced, demonstration copy sent out in anticipation of the record’s release. To create some buzz or drum up a few nice reviews. Some say they sound better. Pressed with extra care so the record sounds its best when it hits the air waves or the reviewer’s hi-fi. Maybe it’s the label itself? Something different from the normal pressing. Some labels have cooler promo variations than others. Columbia’s red and white variation is particularly striking.

This copy came from a large collection we bought a few years back. We thought we had unpacked all the records from the buy but apparently there was one box we missed, which happened to be comprised entirely of Monk and Mingus – the “M” section of the collection. Turns out there were two copies of Ah Um: one first press, one promo. Both Six-Eye labels. Both unplayed. Crazy to think that these were so well preserved after close to 60 years.

Recorded in 1959, this Mingus title is one of the most popular jazz records in our shop, next to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. Not a surprise given that this record was also ahead of its time, merging hard bop and big band in a unique way. And just like that other jazz classic, this has experienced different presses, even absurd ones like a 4 LP single sided, 45 rpm press. A necessary addition to any jazz collection on any format.

Otis Redding Hip Pocket

Hip Pocket Records Presents Otis Redding.

This is the first time we’ve had this format in our shop. A two-track 4 inch flexi disc inside a printed paper sleeve. Philco, a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company, released these little hip pocket records between 1967 and 1969. They advertised them as the first truly portable record. Since you could easily slide it in your hip pocket.

The catalogue consists mainly of pop tunes, given that it was a sort of novelty item. There are, however, a few soul gems. These retailed for 69 cents. At the time, prices of 45s were probably a lot cheaper and you could surely get a lot more plays out of those. Still pretty cool nonetheless.

Photo of Miles Davis c.1977

Happy Birthday, Miles Davis!

This last week, a gentleman brought in a box of jazz records to sell and kindly gifted us this photo of Miles to hang in the shop. We thought what better way to share it with everyone than on the anniversary of his birthday, May 26th. Happy birthday, Mr. Davis! 93 candles on the cake! Back of the photo is dated 1977; possibly a show he did here in San Francisco.

jazz records lee morgan blue note

IF#2: Lee Morgan – The Sidewider

We’ve seen plenty of Taiwanese bootlegs of rock records, but rarely jazz titles. Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder.” This album was Blue Note’s biggest selling record. One of the tracks was covered for use in a car commercial: So it’s no wonder it made bootleg status, after a few changes to the cover scheme and a removal of the Blue Note catalog number. The run out groove actually has the Van Gelder stamp. It remained from the wax imprints of the originals to reproduce the bootleg. The sound quality here is pretty good overall.