Jazz label's master tapes set to make a cool £3m

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The Independent Culture

The master tapes of recordings by John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Nina Simone would take centre stage in any jazz buff's collection.

The master tapes of recordings by John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Nina Simone would take centre stage in any jazz buff's collection.

For a cool £3m the dream could become a reality for collectors today when the back catalogue of the pioneering record label Bethlehem is sold at auction. The original recordings of the stable of more than 100 artists, which also includes Art Blakey, Zoot Sims and Dexter Gordon, are, however, more likely to be snapped up by another record label .

The jewel in Bethlehem's crown is the original recording of "My Baby Just Cares For Me" by Nina Simone. But there is a cornucopia of tracks, including the only song written by Billie Holiday, "Left Alone", recorded by her pianist, Mal Waldron. Reissues are big business for record companies and the market for jazz remains strong with an older, loyal fan base. There is particularly strong demand for jazz originals in France and Japan.

Another lucrative spin-off is in the licensing of tracks to be used in advertising campaigns. "Left Alone" recently featured in a promotional campaign for Toshiba.

Ted Owen, of the auctioneers CooperOwen, said there had been interest from a number of other major labels. "This is a very niche, very exciting label. I have sold copyright and intellectual property before but never a whole record label."

The buyer will enjoy exclusive rights more than 207 master recordings, 28 jazz titles and 40 compilations, as now owned by the Bethlehem Music Company of New York.

Its founder, Gus Wildi, had experienced little success producing pop singles but decided to target the thriving jazz scene in 1953. Bop was established on the east coast while cool came from the west. Wildi created a consistently successful label, with a reputation for cultivating new talent and a staging post for developing legends.

Carmen McRae made her recording debut on Bethlehem, while Mingus recorded three albums, including East Coasting and The Jazz Experiment. There are also two albums by Coltrane, two by Ellington, and three by Blakey, including The Jazz Messengers.

Bethlehem label's star fizzled in the early Sixties, when it was acquired by King Records. There were limited re-issues in the 1970s before it was bought by three brothers from Brooklyn - Joe, Ken and Stanley Cayre. They added it to their Salsoul disco label, which includes in its back catalogue Carol Williams' "Love Is You".

Also to be sold are tracks acquired while Bethlehem was owned by other labels, including the first recording of Porgy and Bess, and tracks by James Brown and Otis Redding.

Further information is at www.cooperowen.com

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