NEW YORK (AP) – The silver bars on the late Lionel Hampton’s vibraphone “resonate forever.”

So says vibraphone expert David Kovins about the special sound of Hampton’s instrument, which was on display Thursday as part of a treasure trove of jazz memorabilia to be auctioned this weekend.

Hampton turned his 1930s King George vibraphone into an expressive solo instrument heard playing with everyone from Benny Goodman to Quincy Jones.

“They don’t make them like this anymore,” said Kovins, standing over the engraved instrument being set up along with 450 lots of personal items that once traveled the world with great jazz musicians. “When you hit these silver alloy bars, they resonate forever.”

Nearby on a stand was John Coltrane’s tenor saxophone. The keys have lost some of their luster from the endless times his fingers touched them.

Sunday’s auction – with a public preview Saturday – is being held at the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, on the fifth floor of the Time Warner complex at Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Bidders can participate by telephone, through eBay or in person.

Guernsey’s, which is holding the auction, refrained from setting price estimates “because prices are set by precedents – and there’s no precedent for these items,” auction house president Arlan Ettinger said.

Proceeds from the sale will go to educate young artists and to foundations and archives dedicated to jazz.

On a sunny afternoon, workers were in full fever setting up what Ettinger called “the first truly major auction focusing on jazz” – at the world’s first arts complex devoted to the American-born art form, directed by Wynton Marsalis.

Prices could reach high for items like Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s horn and Gerry Mulligan’s sax, Dizzy Gillespie’s flower-engraved bent trumpet, a saxophone that belonged to Charlie “Bird” Parker, with his name engraved on it, and an unreleased tape of a 1951 performance by Parker.

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.

Also on the block is a rhinestone performance gown from the late 1960s in which Peggy Lee sang smoldering songs like “Fever.”

Most of the items, consigned by the musicians’ families, have not been publicly seen for decades.

The collection piqued the interest of Marsalis’ road manager, Ernie Gregory, who strolled in from a rehearsal of the trumpeter’s band in a space just around the corner.

“I’ve got to go home and see what I can sell – to get one of these things. Or I just might cash a check,” Gregory only half-joked. “I didn’t know some of these things still existed. They’re priceless.”



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