AMONG THE THOUSANDS of records produced in the Pacific Northwest since the very first musical recording was cut here in Seattle way back in 1923, are a number that cross-over into two notable categories: awesome music and rare as hell music that was originally issued on discs which are so exceedingly scarce that few people have likely ever seen, owned, or heard them.

One example of such a rarity is this 1950s red-wax single by a jazz quartet led by Seattle saxophone legend, Bob Braxton (b. 1922). He first popped up playing around town as a member of the legendary Jive Bombers combo during World War II. At that time Seattle was still a divided city, with two racially segregated musicians’ unions – AFM Local 76 for the white players, and AFM Local 493 for the black players. After joining 493 Braxton began to fall in with a series of 493 bands and after-hour jam sessions. By 1951 he was playing tenor sax with one of Seattle’s top African-American bandleaders, pianist/vibraphonist Elmer Gill (1926-2004) in a combo called the Questions Marks that also included drummer William “Duke” Moore (b. 1923). Braxton presumably married at some point, and the pianist named Patricia Braxton (who was listed in a 493 membership roster), was probably his wife.

So here is a vinyl single featuring “Summertime” / “White Port” as issued on the Debut Records label (#1506) that was cut downtown at Seattle’s pioneering recording studio, Electricraft Inc. (622 Union Street), which operated between 1952 and 1958. The credits noted on the label list Braxton, Moore, and a “Patricia Lee” – along with bassist Bill Rinaldi who, interestingly, was the first white musician to ever quit AFM 76 and switch allegiance (way back in the 1930s) to AFM 493 – in order to get in on the red-hot jazz scene.

The two songs here are both interesting – and I really wish I was technologically capable of digitizing them for everyone’s listening pleasure. George Gershwin’s 1935 gem, “Summertime,” features Bob Braxton’s slow, spirited, gospel-like vocals over a piano-riff foundation that is later taken up by the sax during a mid-section piano solo interlude. The uptempo sax-driven original, “White Port,” swings with some good honking and squealing over solid piano lines, snappy snare accents, and drum-kit fills. All-in-all, a remarkable bit of audio documentation of Seattle’s jazz scene of a half-century ago!