John Coltrane’s saxophone. Dizzy Gillespie’s bent trumpet. Lionel Hampton’s vibraphone.
These were among a treasure trove of 450 pieces of jazz memorabilia that will be auctioned Sunday.
“They don’t make them like this anymore,” said vibraphone expert David Kovins, standing over Hampton’s engraved 1930s King George instrument. “When you hit these silver alloy bars, they resonate forever.”
Nearby, on a stand, was John Coltrane’s tenor sax. The keys have lost some of their luster from the countless times his fingers pressed them.
Sunday’s auction — with a public preview Saturday — is being held at the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, in the Time Warner complex in Manhattan. Bidders can participate by telephone, eBay or in person.
The auctioneer, Guernsey’s, refrained from setting price estimates “because prices are set by precedents — and there’s no precedent for these items,” president Arlan Ettinger said.
Items were donated by the musicians’ families. Proceeds from the sale will go to jazz foundations, archives and young jazz artists.
Prices could climb for items like Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s trumpet, Gerry Mulligan’s sax, Dizzy Gillespie’s flower-engraved bent trumpet, a sax engraved with Charlie “Bird” Parker’s name or an unreleased tape of a 1951 Parker performance.
Thelonious Monk’s smoking jacket has the name of his song evoking his beloved wife embroidered inside the sleeve, with a whimsical detail — “Crepuscule with Nellie” is misspelled.
There are dozens of colorfully surreal drawings by Miles Davis, original Al Hirschfeld caricatures and more modest items including postcards and photos.
One item transcends music: Coltrane’s fifth-grade notebook, its cover bearing the words “Negro History” in cut-out red letters, with handwritten notes and newspaper clippings inside. His boyhood upright piano has a special touch, too: a key with the word “sticking” scrawled on it, author unknown.