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All This Jazz: 1947

All This Jazz: 1947

August 1947. New York. "Lou Blum, Jack Crystal [reaching] and Herbie Hill [rear] at Milt Gabler's Commodore Record Shop on 42nd Street." Medium format negative by William Gottlieb for Down Beat magazine. View full size.


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And that 4-record album by Billie Holiday ...

Ah, from the days when record albums were albums!

Precious memories

Back in the day when 78 rpm records were as common as Brylcreem and the whiff of Old Spice, the Commodore Music Shop was a shrine to dyed-in-the-shellac "moldy figs". My friend and later roommate (Baron) Timme Rosenkrantz worked there briefly. I don't recall purchasing a record at the Commodore, but it seems like only yesterday that I first breathed in the wonderful lingering atmosphere of this historic 42nd Street emporium. The Commodore was more than a record shop, Milt Gabler and Jack Crystal also recorded and issued extraordinary music on their Commodore label.

The blond kid at the counter

It was a great place to go get the latest release. Been there and done that.

That guy smilin' down

is non-other than Thomas "Fats" Waller.

700 Sundays

Billy Crystal talked about this shop in his very good Broadway show and HBO special "700 Sundays."

The covers

of the Kid Ory and Billie Holiday albums.

Kid Ory

My sister had that Kid Ory album, bought new when it was released. I'm not sure where it ended up, but I wish I could listen to it now.

That shelving must be heavy duty. "Albums" were heavy then.

Kid Ory Creole Jazz Band

Nice Jim Flora cover art on that Kid Ory record!

Commodore: Classics In Swing

If it hadn't been for those UHCA pressings, I never would've been able to snag both records from 18 year old Gene Krupa's first recording sessions - December 8th and 16th, 1927 with "McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans" (original OKeh label 78rpm pressings of those sides are hen's teeth and prohibitively expensive on the open market).

And that 4-record 78rpm album set by Billie Holiday held by Mr. Blum above is worth a couple of cool C-notes today. Billie Holiday only recorded 16 sides for Commodore on a couple of sessions in 1939 and a couple of sessions in 1944. What first led Billie to Commodore is a haunting composition called "Strange Fruit" - her regular label (Columbia via Vocalion/OKeh) wouldn't touch it because of the graphic subject matter, but Commodore took a chance with it on Billie's first session on April 20, 1939. And so a landmark recording was waxed.

I've got more than a few Commodore label 78's in my stash, both 10" and 12" pressings - I scoop up every single one I see out in the wild. Below is the label's first 12" issue - the first of Commodore's jam sessions mentioned in the article Dave provided earlier in the comment section, simply listed as "A Jam Session At Commodore".

From my stash of 78's :

Billy's Dad!

Jack Crystal is Billy Crystal's father.

Saga of the Shop

From the August 13, 1947, issue of Down Beat. Click to embiggen.

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