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Jazz Out There: Out of Print and Unavailable

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Have you ever wanted something so bad that you could feel it there at your fingertips but knew that it was somehow completely out of reach? Have you ever heard something that sounded so beautiful that you just had to hear it again and again? Have you ever seen something so artistically perfect that all you could do was think about how badly you wanted it? So here we come full circle, and then you ask yourself, "How could I possibly have this in my possession? Just to hear it? Just to see it? Please, how do I get this?"

You think about it day and night, you tell your closest friends about it, you tell your girlfriend about it even though you risk completely alienating her because she will discover that there is another love, another obsession in your life besides her, and, of course, you tell your parents just in case there is the off-chance that they might somehow bestow it upon you out of love and generosity. Actually, I tell mine anyway because my parents are cool. Yes, as the great free jazz saxophonist Reverend Frank Wright put it, "Love is the word." Love in the universe, the love of whoever or whatever your god may be, the love of jazz.

So how do you go about getting closer to this item so that you might possibly obtain it? Well, I thought I was really an awesome guy recently when I came across the four-CD set of John Coltrane's Half Note radio gigs from New York 1965. I went around town, and actually online, and told people about it. I even dubbed some copies and did some trading with them and gave a few copies away to some good friends of mine. The Coltrane Quartet in their prime, a four disc bootleg. I had been dreaming about this for years, decades! Then I met a guy who was even cooler. My ego was crushed. I wanted to fight him. I felt like a kid again walking through the halls at school with my head held high and suddenly somebody yells out, "You're a freaking dork!" This guy knew things that I had never fathomed. "Dude," he says to me. "Have you ever heard the Black Ark?" I just looked at him with my mouth open and before I could say anything he says, "Have you ever heard Noah Howard?" I started to cry, and then I said to him, "Well, who is the drummer?" "Muhammad Ali," he said to me. "Rashied Ali's brother." What? How could this be? I knew everything, I was the MAN. No, I began to realize that truly I am smaller than dirt. I started to drool on the carpet and then the guy says to me, "You want to hear it?"

And so began the journey. Noah Howard's The Black Ark is one of the most incredible pieces of music ever put to record and guess what? It is long out of print. It has been said that the original 1969 vinyl release was never reissued and therefore it gets bids upwards of $200 on Ebay. It is not uncommon for collectors to pay prices for rare pieces of music that would, to any other rational human being, seem astronomical. To collectors, they only thing they may want to rationalize is where and how to get the money to pay for it, not to mention why they want it so badly in the first place.

What is my rationale, you ask? My rationale is this: like so many other "collectors" of fine music, I am also a musician. I want to be the greatest musician I can be, so I go after great music that I can listen to and learn new things from. I am constantly studying, practicing, and expanding my musical and artistic horizons. The guy who introduced me to The Black Ark opened the door to hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of music that, prior to this discovery, I didn't know even existed. I will be indebted to him for life, and the problem is he knows that.

Another gem that he introduced me to is Duo Exchange by drummer Rashied Ali and saxophonist Frank Lowe. Most people know Rashied Ali from his days with John Coltrane from 1965-1967, and later with John's wife, pianist Alice Coltrane. What a lot of people don't know is that in 1973 he founded the New York jazz club Ali's Alley in conjunction with the Survival label for which he recorded some incredibly vital free jazz. All of those albums were independently released and, until recently, long out of print. Although Duo Exchange has recently been re-released on CD on the Knit Classics label, the original vinyl release still fetches $50 or more on Ebay.

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