Jazz Collectors of Instagram: Interview with @djpari_

For the next installment of Jazz Collectors of Instagram, I’d like to introduce another veteran collector, @djpari_. Pari approaches the hobby from a similar angle to myself, having his roots in DJing. His collection boasts a long list of hard-to-come-by rarities, including Sonny Clark’s Cool Struttin’, Lee Morgan’s Candy, J.R. Monterose (Blue Note 1535), Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus, and Donald Byrd’s Byrd’s Eye View. Like jrock1675, DJ Pari has proven a friendly, super cool dude through our electronic exchanges. Enjoy the interview and keep an eye out for the next one!

DGM: How long have you been collecting records and jazz records specifically?

DJ Pari: I started collecting vinyl in the early 1990s, during the height of the acid jazz movement in the U.K. Around the same time I first flexed my DJ skills in my native Germany, and my sets during that time were heavily influenced by jazz, in particular the songs issued on the dance floor jazz compilation series by the famed Mojo Club in Hamburg, where I played several times over the years, a mix of soul jazz, jazz funk, Brazilian music and soul music with a jazzy twist. As long as you could dance to it, we played it. This eventually sparked my interest in jazz and ignited my passion for collecting jazz records and learning more about this art form. I studied jazz history and analysis in college, and I have quite a collection of books about jazz and the genre’s artists. To me, jazz is so much more than just collecting vinyl. It’s a big part of my life.

DGM: How did you get started collecting jazz records?

DJ Pari: The first jazz album I bought was The Cannonball Adderley Sextet in New York. But coming from the DJ perspective, my priority in collecting back in those days was seeking out dance floor friendly records like Grant Green’s “Sookie Sookie” (from his 1970 Blue Note album Alive!) or the hard-hitting funky jazz burners by Boogaloo Joe Jones, Rusty Bryant, Reuben Wilson, Jimmy McGriff, and, naturally, Jimmy Smith as well as some jazz fusion. I guess you can say I worked my way backwards, from the acid jazz of the 1990s to 1970s jazz funk to 1960s soul jazz to 1950s hard bop.

DJ Pari’s copy of Boogaloo Joe

Paradoxically, I never cared about collectibility back then. I can’t even tell you how many Blue Note first pressings I passed over in favor of a United Artists reissue because they were cheaper, easier to handle and often in much greater condition. If I think about that today, I want to slap myself, and I paid a big price for my ignorance by having to catch up later, when prices had gone up. In the mid-1990s, I got heavily into collecting and DJing rare soul and funk 45s. I’d still pick up the occasional jazz album here and there, but I wouldn’t have called myself a jazz collector back then. That changed about five years ago, when I semi-retired from the DJ life and dedicated all my resources and free time to collecting jazz vinyl.

DGM: How many jazz records do you have in your collection?

DJ Pari: I’d say about 1,500, and another 1,500 soul and funk albums. I’ve downsized my collection in recent years, selling or trading later pressings and reissues and records that have been collecting dust. I also have a collection of about 3,000 45s, mostly rare soul and funk. But to me, it’s not about the quantity but the quality of a collection.

DJ Pari’s collection

DGM: How did you amass your collection and what’s your process for finding new records?

DJ Pari: Back in the day, without eBay and online resources like Jazz Collector, London Jazz Collector and your own blog, you had to learn by doing. The liner notes on the back of an album, which often also lists other releases, and the inners were valuable resources. Of course it was easier to find original Blue Notes “in the field” than it is today, for prices that wouldn’t break your bank, but you had to actually go out and get your hands dirty. I used to go to yard and garage sales and trade with other DJs and collectors. Sometimes I ran ads in local papers, and when I was on tour, I always looked up local record stores (still do). When I lived in Los Angeles in the 1990s, one of my favorite spots was the monthly flea market in Pasadena. I think I found about a quarter of my jazz collection there, digging in the early morning hours with a flashlight strapped to my head. Original Impulse pressings of Coltrane albums rarely cost more than $10 back then.

Of course all this has changed. I have less time to go digging today. As my office is in downtown Richmond, where I live today, I try to hit up local record stores during lunch break almost every day. I still visit record stores when I travel, and nothing beats the thrill of finding a desirable record when you the least expect it. Then there’s eBay, which can provide a very different kind of thrill, but I try not to buy there much. I’ve also had some success on Discogs and, lately, Instagram has been a great platform for buying, selling and trading, hassle free, with the jazz collector community here. It may be my favorite virtual platform for acquiring jazz vinyl these days, and I have learned from and been inspired by other collectors.

DGM: Do you collect originals, reissues, or both?

DJ Pari: Most importantly, I collect jazz records because I love the music, no matter the pressing of the vinyl. I used to buy reissues sometimes, as long as they weren’t too far removed from the original source. Having access to the music that I love was most important to me. But my personal standards have changed over the years, because I have somewhat become an amateur audiophile. Let’s take Blue Note as an example. I am weary of modern reissues, including Music Matters and Analogue Productions, because although the ones I’ve heard sound great, they don’t really sound the way they were intended to sound. Most modern engineers don’t understand the adjustments that Van Gelder made to his tapes, and they simply don’t hear what he heard.

It’s no myth that no record sounds as good as an original Blue Note pressing. Once I discovered the pleasure of immersing myself in the room filling sound of a proper RVG master, the high dynamics, the tonal range, the heavy bottom, I was hooked. It set the bar very high, and today, I just won’t settle for less. I still have some United Artists pressings sitting on my shelf that I have not yet upgraded to original pressings, and they don’t get much play. That said, I consider all pressings an original that bear the RVG etching and the “ear” in the runout, but I don’t have to own a first pressing. If a clean New York pressing of Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2 saves me 200 bucks, I’m all for it. I’m in this for the music first. As long as I get the sound that I love, I don’t care about the address on the label (although few thrills compare to finding a Lexington pressing). But I absolutely respect collectors who are all about getting that first pressing of a record. I admire their patience, persistence and passion (and deep pockets), because I know it takes a lot of self-discipline to pass over records that you want badly but that may be just a second pressing. I just can’t do it.

DGM: Do you prefer mono, stereo, or neither?

DJ Pari: It depends on the label and the year the record was released. I try to avoid stereo pressings on Riverside or Prestige, while Contemporary stereos sound pretty good. As for Blue Note, by 1962, Rudy Van Gelder truly had begun to pay more attention to the stereo mix, and the results are often very satisfying. Listen to Duke Pearson’s Wahoo!, it sounds so much better in stereo than mono. The bottom line, at least to me (and I’m no expert), is that a mono recording is a more authentic listening experience. It’s the closest to being in the studio when the record was cut.

DJ Pari

DGM: What equipment do you use for playback?

DJ Pari: My setup consists of two Technics SL-1200 turntables with Shure WHLB Whitelabel cartridges. To play mono records, I just flip the mono switch on my Numark M6 mixer, although I am tempted to try a mono cartridge since most of the albums in my current rotation are mono recordings. Having two turntables and a multichannel mixer at your disposal would make this pretty easy. I’m also itching to buy a vintage mono tube amp at some point. I’m proud of my two custom speakers that a friend of mine built for me twenty years ago. I have no idea what’s under the hood, but you need a truck to move them and the sound is pure bliss.

DGM: Who are some of your favorite artists and labels?

DJ Pari: John Coltrane, because he possessed a wholly unique signature and he overflowed with style and tone. Trane discovered a different way of thinking about improvisation, and he is a musician’s musician while still being accessible to those who don’t understand what he is doing. He just touches you. I love Miles, but Lee Morgan is may favorite trumpet player, and I’m a fan of most hard bop greats, from Sonny Rollins to Cannonball Adderley, Johnny Griffin, Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Clark, and Art Blakey. And then there’s Monk. He grew on me slowly, but today, I’m all about Monk. My favorite label is Blue Note Records, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff created — with the help of Van Gelder and Reid Miles — the blueprint (pun intended) of the perfect jazz record, a well rounded effort in sonic experience, feeling and style. Of course I also appreciate Impulse, Prestige, Riverside, New Jazz, Contemporary, Savoy, and Verve (especially the Clef editions).

DGM: What’s your favorite jazz record in your collection?

DJ Pari: That is a tough question, but you knew that when you asked it. I’d say A Love Supreme by Coltrane. Although I don’t listen to it much, it’s the most important record in my collection because it has changed my understanding of music and of art in general. It’s sacred to me, and playing it is an almost ritualistic event. Blue Train and Crescent are other favorites, and so is Monk’s Brilliant Corners. With Saxophone Colossus, Sonny Rollins created a perfect artistic statement that encapsulates everything that makes jazz America’s most important and most original art form.

DJ Pari’s copy of A Love Supreme

There, you have five already, and I could go on all day. But I must admit that even as a passionate Coltrane fan, I never got into “the new thing”. I’ve listened to Live at the Village Vanguard Again maybe once, and I didn’t even make to side two of Om, I’m just not feeling it. And believe me, when I was younger I’ve tried a wide variety of hallucinogens to open my senses. I’m happy for Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Andrew Hill for going as far out as they did; I just can’t go there with them. I’ll keep lurking and listening from the distance, hoping that one day my taste will mature enough to get what they were doing. Until then, I feel perfectly happy being stuck in the timeless idiom of 1950s and early 1960s hard bop and soul jazz.

DJ Pari’s copy of Saxophone Colossus

DGM: What is one of your most memorable acquisition stories?

DJ Pari: A couple of years ago I found a stack of jazz records at Goodwill, among them Byrd’s Eye View by Donald Byrd on Transition Records and Coltrane’s Soultrane on Prestige, each for $1. Just recently, here in Richmond, I found a stereo pressing of Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section on Contemporary Records, for a buck. One week later, I found a mono pressing of the same record at the same store (for $150, I assume they had seen my IG post about the bargain from the previous week). What are the odds? It’s moments like these that make record collecting so much fun. And it shows that there is still rare vinyl to be found for a bargain, you just have to keep looking and be patient.

DGM: How do you feel about eBay’s influence on the collecting experience?

DJ Pari: eBay has done a lot of damage to the art of jazz record collecting. I mean today, as long as you got the money, even the rarest record is right at your fingertips, you just punch in your highest bid and pull the trigger, from the safety of your home, without getting your fingers dusty, without paying your dues. Where’s the fun in that? But I’m not so sure if we ever want to go back to the days of exclusively organic collecting, it’s just become so convenient that I sometimes fall into that same eBay trap…and I always leave it feeling like I need to take a shower.

DGM: What are your thoughts on the past, present, and future of the jazz record market?

DJ Pari: Prices of rare jazz records will continue to climb, making many unaffordable for the average collector. But, at the same time, as they become increasingly scarce to find in good condition, this development makes jazz records more collectable and valuable. While this sucks for the buyer, it’s good for the preservation of rare jazz vinyl because when you spend $1,000 or more on a record, you will handle it with care. Jazz records took a lot of abuse in the 1950s through the 1970s when they were rarely considered collectibles but a mere commodity. Today, we look at them as historic artifacts and we treat them accordingly, preserving them for future generations. I just don’t want to see them become an investment, being traded for the sole purpose to make money, especially when it doesn’t benefit the artist. Hank Mobley died homeless. How do you think he would feel if he knew that some of his records sell for more money than he got making them?

DGM: Do you have any advice for other collectors?

DJ Pari: Never forget that it’s about the music. Don’t shy away from buying a reissue of a record that you truly love. You may never find an original pressing of Cool Struttin’, so why miss out on the great music? Also, don’t buy a title just because it’s considered hot and a must-have, and don’t cave under the pressure of group thinking in the jazz community. Seek out records that you personally like, not that others tell you you should own. Why spend a lot of money on a record when the music doesn’t touch you? As with all things in life, be original and do your own thing. And most importantly, don’t take this too seriously. After all, it’s just records. The music will always live on, in one form or another.