March 19, 2017
Because every record collection has a story.
Home Grown is our series profiling you lot and your excellent record collections. Taking our cue from the brilliant submissions to the #VFRecordCollections thread on Instagram, we want to share a little of your hard-earned love for vinyl with the world.
Each week, we’ll be profiling a different collector from around the world and finding out what makes them tick. Want in? Send us a pic of your collection and a few words about your collection to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Christopher Brown aka what_can_brown
Location: Atlanta, GA
Size of collection (approx.): 1,100
How long have you been collecting for? 2012
What part of your set-up are you most proud of?
That every part of it is vintage. I’ve tried to limit my record collection to original press ’50s and ’60s jazz and I’ve avoided modern equipment as well. If I had to pick one item though, it would be my Marantz 2270 receiver. I found it at an antique store with a “recently serviced” note attached and I took their word for it. Considering how much time I spend sourcing records, it’s criminal how little I spend on upgrading or tweaking my equipment.
Since I started collecting, my setup has had a different format for each of the three times I’ve relocated. I’m finally in my own house where I have a room dedicated for record listening and the occasional whiskey. People joke that the room feels like an antique store because nearly everything is vintage, from the records to an old Seeburg juke box cover I bolted to the wall to the Paul McCobb credenza my turntable sits on.
Which record(s) are you most proud of?
Walter Bishop Jr.’s Speak Low, which is perhaps obvious because of its rarity, but it was made more special because I found it “in the wild” as opposed to online. I was living in Austin at the time and heard about a former slaughterhouse that had been converted into a record store an hour and a half west of the city. I say it was converted but I noticed there were still meat hooks hanging from the ceiling and, aside from the smell having faded over the years, there seemed little effort put into updating the place. It was definitely a crate diggers dream with wall to wall and floor to ceiling boxes filled with records meticulously alphabetized by genre. There must have been several hundred thousand records with a good portion of it jazz.
When I discovered the Bishop record, I knew it was rare, but I didn’t know if it was original as the Jazztime label is pretty obscure and there was limited internet reception available for me to double check. At $6, it was an easy risk to take. For me, this is what the collecting experience is about. Of course it’s a rare record worth much more than the purchase price, but the process of an out of the way car ride, spending hours on your hands and knees getting dirty, not knowing what you’re looking for until you see it, and then escaping home with your prize…what’s not to love?
What does your record collection mean to you?
There’s a sense of nostalgia I feel with jazz records. Of course I wasn’t alive when the stuff was released, but I’m referring to when I was first exposed to the music. I studied jazz music history, theory and performance in college, taught by Anthony Braxton, Jay Hoggard and others. You develop a different relationship with jazz when you’re analyzing Charles Mingus’ ‘Don’t Be Afraid (The Clown’s Afraid Too)’ in class one day and the next you’re performing ‘Moanin” alongside better musicians than I could ever hope to be. Throughout college, my roommates and I would borrow and copy CD box sets from the college libraries network we had access to by mail, building catalogs of out-of-print Coltrane box sets, rare live performances and other music we didn’t want to pay for.
After college, I traveled into NYC for shows at the Village Vanguard as often as I could. I saw a number of artists perform in their twilight years and the more I learned about the music, the more I regretted not hearing others perform. Vinyl is as close as I’ll ever get to the source in many cases and there is some satisfaction in knowing that I’m able to preserve that access, even if it’s a mostly selfish cause.
Vinyl is a solitary passion, especially when you’re genre-specific. You can play records for friends and family but they will rarely understand how you can just sit and concentrate on the music. When I hear jazz, I’m reminded of college and of New York, made more alive by immersing myself in jazz musician biographies in my spare time. In that way, I suppose the collection is also a form of escapism, even if for 22 min at a time.