Daily Archives: December 5, 2011

IS THERE AN ART HISTORIAN IN THE HOUSE? (or NAME THE UNIDENTIFIED BAND, PLEASE?)

What follows is off the track — it may strike some JAZZ LIVES readers as being lost in the woods — but humor me if you will.  I know my readers are very well versed in subjects that go beyond jazz, so I am asking for their assistance.

Cast your eyes on the object below.

I bought this at a Berkeley, California, outdoor flea market in the summer of 2011.  The Beloved and I love flea markets and yard sales — something about the thrill of the chase, not buying things new, getting a bargain, and (whisper this) getting a peek into other people’s lives through the objects they have for sale.  Much of this is disappointing, and it brings out my worst snobbery.  I have seen more “country antique” home decor objects than is good for me, and the records are often a fairly depressing reminder of what people actually listened to . . . the OKeh test pressings have so far eluded me.

But this small, heavy object delighted me.  Is it eight men rowing in a galley, or are they carrying wine barrels on their shoulders?  What animals are carved at the front and rear of this sculpture?  I tried for a moment to convince myself that it was really an antique Greek jazz band — the Athenian Washboard Beaters — or a German trad group — but even my whimsy could not be extended that far.  I know it’s not the George Barnes Octet or the Jones-Collins Astoria Eight — so we won’t go there.

I love it and it’s on my coffee table.  Can anyone explain?

And the answer to the question you were too polite to ask is, “Twelve dollars, and I didn’t haggle.”

(I’m still holding out hope that it is an ancient rendering of the Brock Mumford Arcadian Dance Orchestra of sainted memory.  Or perhaps I’m a little too early: the third fellow from the left looks a bit like Leon Rappolo.)

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