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.)


  1. One leader with 7 men rowing with barrels behind them. It is a carved representation of an ancient cargo ship. The animals are wolves or dogs. The ship looks Greek. What this means, I have no idea.

  2. Louise Farrell

    Michael, What’s it made of, stone or plaster? Is it in the round or has it been knocked off of another surface?

  3. It feels like plaster although I don’t know how to test it (short of scraping the bottom with a knife?) and the back side is less detailed but not flat. So glad a real artist is on the case!

  4. “The back side is less detailed but not flat.” Are there six more fellows on the back side? If so, should we perhaps be thinking in terms of the early big bands, rather than N.O.-type small groups? Maybe a Ben Pollack group or a Red Nichols group with a some string players along for the ride? Teagarden had an easily recognizable face…

  5. It’s either an “odd” or an “end.” My guess is that it’s an “odd.”

  6. A steal at $12…the guy at the far right looks like one of the many faces of Joe Holt :o)

  7. Definitely one of Buddy Bolden’s lost plaster cylinders.

  8. Looks more like a Norse longboat than a Greek ship to me, with those carved animal (wolf?) heads at stem and stern, but the crew don’t look like Vikings. In fact they resemble depictions of early Celtic missionaries arriving to convert the heathen English – but then, what about those barrels? Communion wine?? Or maybe it’s Erik the Red and his merry men bringing back wine from Greenland (didn’t the Vikings call it Vinland?). A $12 buy but a $60,000 enigma………

  9. Bernd Gaertner

    May I help you? This artefact is a replica of the “Neumagener Weinschiff” which ornated the graveyard of a wine-merchant in the then Roman part of Germany. Details are to be found on the German version of Wikipedia.
    “Jazz lives” is a daily joy for me and lots of other. Thank you very much, Michael. Truly yours Bernd Gaertner, Berlin, Germany

  10. I knew that there were many wise people reading this blog, but my hat’s off to you, Bernd! Thanks a million, Michael

  11. You did well, Michael…it’s 24 euro on this website!

  12. Delightful news, Susan — not only do I know what it is, I got it for less than half price! (Eine Bargain.) How did you find this out? Cheers and thanks! Michael

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