The year was 1992, or perhaps it was late winter of 1991. The date is of little consequence anymore. I had just gone to see Elvin Jones and his Jazz Machine perform at NCSU’s center stage. The band included Sonny Fortune and Ravi Coltrane. I went to the Reader’s Corner on Hillsborough St. and scored a copy of his record Poly Currents on vinyl. I remember taking it home and listening to it and thinking what a great record it was. I was probably hyping the concert to my room mates. I did that, I still do that. My room mate, the late Chris Whitson asked to borrow the record. I had only played it once, but I knew he loaned me records all the time too and so I said, “Sure” and handed the record to him. Months passed by and I didn’t think to ask him back for the record as maybe I had something on loan from him as well.
Then, the unthinkable happened. My friend didn’t come home one night. The next morning we heard our phone ringing. It was the police calling to say he had died that night from an overdose. That time haunted me for years. I tried to be somewhat the same, somewhat more mature, but I never could be the same again without my best friend. In a few weeks his brothers came and collected most of his belongings including his massive record collection. Those of us who were friends and room mates could’ve easily gone in and taken records from his collection, things he’d borrowed. I wanna say he also had my copy of Taj Mahal’s Giant Steps/Old Folks and Richard Hell’s blank generation, but those are just lost forever now. At the time, I was pretty shocked that I’d lost my friend and he actually wasn’t ever coming back.
Flash forward 30 years. I still think about my lost friend and sometimes when I was thinking about him I wondered what ever became of his collection. Then I learned a record store had bought the collection. I followed them on social media and mentioned that a few of the records in the collection had belonged to me and some other friends (the drummer from our band noticed his copy of Nirvana’s Bleach in the collection). To be honest, some of what I was reading and learning was really weird. The record store kind of used his name to sell the records, and they really didn’t seem to sell them for the going rate you might buy them on discogs for either. The auction I saw had the records going for anywhere from double to triple the prices you could buy the same copies for on discogs, It all seemed a bit smarmy for them to lay on the admiration about him so they could make a buck, but I suppose capitalism allows people to market things however they want to. But one really cool thing happened besides the fact that after 30 years those records got to be in people’s hands again and listened to. That was, I got reunited with my copy of Elvin Jones’ Poly Currents. The cool thing is that they didn’t charge me a dime for it.
Love and cherish your friends and family. Hold them dearly. Memories live on, but they can’t substitute for the new ones you can create.