Jazz memorabilia at Peter Harrington

Rare and antiquarian book seller, London-based Peter Harrington has released their new catalogue, which seeks to evoke the ephemeral moment and improvisatory spirit of jazz.

“Peter Harrington’s new Jazz catalogue seeks to answer a question many lovers of the quintessentially ephemeral genre may have pondered – how does one collect jazz – something that is by definition, improvisatory, participatory and of the moment? The 50-item catalogue offers several ideas on where one can start,” said Glenn Mitchell, the senior specialist at Peter Harrington who has curated the collection.

Original recordings are perhaps the most obvious point of entry, with some standout pieces including, an original acetate pressing of Billie’s Holiday’s legendary 1939 recording of Strange Fruit – her sombre lament about lynchings in the South about which she once said: “It still depresses me every time I sing it … But I have to keep singing it”. With an illustrious provenance, this disc comes from the collection of bandleader Artie Shaw and is selling for £12,500.

original acetate pressing of Billie’s Holiday’s Strange Fruit

Another evocative survival still retaining a remarkable frisson is a private test pressing made in Kansas City in 1943, of Charlie Parker taking flight on Ray Noble’s notoriously difficult Cherokee, Bird’s “favourite practice warhorse” and the tune on which he admitted that he “came alive”. The pressing is offered at £10,000.

A test pressing made in Kansas City in 1943 of Charlie Parker's Cherokee

Elsewhere the catalogue includes a variety of other highlights, including:

An iconic memento which comes in the form of a pair of sunglasses owned by the great trumpeter Miles Davis, typical of the statement shades he wore during the 80s – £5,250.

A pair of Miles Davis's sunglasses

A gardenia worn by Billie Holiday, kept and treasured by Billie’s maid and confidante, perhaps the only existing survivor of Lady Day’s trademark flowers – £6,500.

From impressively-sized and beautifully designed concert posters to tattered job-printed handbills for an obscure club date, ephemera also renders a powerful evocation. Highlights here include an eye-catching ‘Breakfast Dance’ poster from a Count Basie one-nighter at Quincy College in Illinois with the bandleader’s portrait within a starburst framed by his name – £2,650.

An original poster for Count Basie

Another medium often linked with jazz for its decisive ability to capture and vicariously transport us into “the moment” is of course photography. Standout highlights include:
An impressive exhibition-sized print signed by the photographer Art Kane of what must surely be the most famous group portrait in jazz, A Great Day in Harlem. In the summer of 1958, Kane captured this extraordinary “class photograph” on the steps of a Harlem brownstone and managed to gather a stellar line up, including Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, and Mary Lou Williams – £5,750.

A Great Day in Harlem photograph

40 previously unpublished “live” photographs captured by amateur photographer James N. Seidelle in 1951 when Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Roy Eldridge, Zoot Sims, and Johnny Hodges all appeared at Lindsay’s Sky Bar, Cleveland’s hottest jazz hot spot – £7,500.

Highly evocative collection of 7 original exhibition prints of the Mandrake Club and Soho by Harold Chapman – the club was “a crummy cellar dump where jazz musicians would gather after their gigs and hold informal jam sessions” The pictures distil the essence of London’s most famous bohemian quarter in the 1950s – £5,000.

Signed and manuscript material also feature in many guises: recordings, books, and souvenirs. Highlights include:
A highly unusual wearable autograph album – a silk tie, evidently worn by its owner to a number of gigs and signed by Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and Dexter Gordon, among 30 jazz luminaries – £3,500.

A silk tie signed by Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and Dexter Gordon

Art Tatum’s signature – a black tulip among jazz autographs – present on his eponymously titled 1956 album – £8,500.

Highlights from the catalogue will be on display at Peter Harrington’s shop at 43 Dover Street following the launch of the Jazz catalogue in the last week of October 2022.