Tag Archives: record stores

NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND

My friend Rich Liebman asked me about this now-departed piece of New York archaeology: a record shop in the Forty-Second Street subway station.  He remembers going there in 1959 or 1960 and that the store had a great selection of jazz records.

I couldn’t remember the name, but I have a strong visual memory of being there almost fifteen years later, and purchasing one record only — ROY’S GOT RHYTHM, an Emarcy compilation of Roy Eldridge sides recorded in Scandinavia in 1951.  I also remember that it was dark, predictably, and that all the plastic sleeves covering the records were dirty . . . my hands were unsavory after a good long browse.

Can any JAZZ LIVES reader supply more definite details?  Was the stand (long and narrow, in the fashion of record stores with browsers) called SUBWAY RECORDS or am I, once again, making things up?  Or RECORD MART?

Research!  (I couldn’t find an online image that was sufficiently subterranean to fit: you will have to imagine . . . and then go scrub your hands vigorously.)

May your happiness increase.

“JAZZ LIVES” GOES SHOPPING at AMOEBA MUSIC

More rewarding than going to the mall in search of the nonexistent record store (now replaced by a kiosk selling baseball caps you can have embroidered with your name, perhaps?).  More personal than bidding and clicking online, it’s my return to AMOEBA MUSIC in San Francisco!

It should say something about the impression this store (and its Berkeley branch) made on me this last summer that I can summon up “1855 Haight Street” without having to think about it.  And the flimsy yellow plastic bag I brought back to my apartment has not been used for any ordinary purpose.  Inside the store the view is awe-inspiring and not a little intimidating for those who (unlike me) collect broadly across the musical spectrum:

I knew where I was going and my path had only two main oases — leaving aside the cash register at the end.  One delicious spot is sequestered in a corner: several bookshelves filled with albums of 10″ 78 rpm records.  You’d have to be a collector of older music or someone of a certain age to be familiar with this display in its unaltered state.  It still thrills me but it has the odd flavor of a museum exhibit — although I know of no museum where you can purchase the exhibits and take them home.  See if this photograph doesn’t provoke some of the same emotions:

And what do these albums contain?  I’ll skip over the dollar 1941-2 OKeh Count Basie discs, the odd Dave Brubeck 78, the remarkable Mercer Records PERDIDO by Oscar Pettiford on cello, the Artie Shaw Bluebirds . . . for a few that struck particular chords with me:

That one’s to inspire my pal Ricky Riccardi on to his next book!

One of the finest front lines imaginable — a pairing that only happened once.

The right Stuff . . . for Anthony Barnett.

Milt Gabler made good records!

In honor of Maggie Condon, Stan and Stephen Hester . . . and I didn’t arrange the records for this shot.  When was the last time you entered a record store with its own Eddie Condon section?

It would have been disrespectful to confine myself to taking pictures and not buying anything (also, enterprises like this need some support to stay in business), so I did my part.

The reverse of a Johnny Guarnieri tribute to Fats Waller, autographed to “Ed,” whom I assume played a little piano.

The NOB HILL GANG might look like another San Francisco “Dixieland” band, but any group with Ernie Figueroa on trumpet and Vince Cattolica on clarinet demands serious consideration.

But wait!  There’s more!

A Roy Eldridge collection on Phontastic (source: Jerry Valburn) of Gene Krupa 1941-2 airshots plus the 1940 Fred Rich date with Benny Carter;

ONE WORLD JAZZ — a 1959 Columbia stereo attempt at internationalism through overdubbing, featuring a home unit of Americans: Clark Terry, Ben Webster, J. J. Johnson, Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell, George Duvivier, and Jo Jones — with overdubbed contributions from Bob Garcia, Martial Solal, Stephane Grappelly, Ake Persson, Roger Guerin, Roy East, Ronnie Ross, and George Chisholm;

Marty Grosz and his Honoris Causa Jazz Band on Ristic / Collector’s Items — featuring unissued material and rehearsals from the HOORAY FOR BIX! sessions — featuring Frank Chace;

a double-CD set on the Retrieval label of the Rhythmic Eight, in honor of Mauro Porro, whose set at the 2011 Whitley Bay paying homage to this band was memorable;

a Leo Watson compilation CD  on Indigo — just because I couldn’t leave it there;

the Billy Strayhorn LUSH LIFE compilation on Doctor Jazz, with a fine small group whose horns are Clark Terry and Bob Wilber.

The end result at the cash register?  Forty-three dollars and some cents.  Worth a trip from just about anywhere.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RECORD STORE . . . OR OPEN ONE!

This Saturday, April 17, is Independent Record Store Day worldwide. 

Many’s the happy hour I spent in Record World, Tower Records, Dayton’s, Happy Tunes, and more . . . perusing, considering, talking, hanging out, pouncing on something I’d never seen, wondering whether to spend twenty dollars (1972 dollars!) for BUCK MEETS RUBY or EASY NOW.  I grew up in suburbia, where every department store had a record section.  Those days are mostly gone, although I live near enough to Mr. Cheapo’s to visit, and Academy Records and Second Hand Rose still offer New York thrills. 

But here’s novelist Nick Hornby’s commentary, very much to the point:

“Yes, yes, I know it’s easier to download music, and probably cheaper.  But what’s playing on your favourite download store when you walk into it?  Nothing.  Who are you going to meet in there?  Nobody.  Where are the notice boards offering flat shares and vacant slots in bands destined for superstardom?  Who’s going to tell you to stop listening to that and start listening to this?  Go ahead and save yourself a couple of quid.  The saving will cost you a career, a set of cool friends, musical taste and, eventually, your soul.  Record stores can’t save your life.  But they can give you a better one.”

I would disagree only with Hornby’s understatement: I think record stores did save my life, or, at least, they helped me find something that has continues to make me very happy. 

And he is also correct about the social context: a Jiffy bag with a CD from Amazon through the mail is a great thing, and I am delighted to receive one, but it just isn’t the same as visually eavesdropping on what the fellow in the next browser is looking at or (one afternoon in Dayton’s) getting yelled at my the cashier for making an insufficiently reverent remark about the late Bud Powell record he was playing.  Yesterdays, oh, yesterdays!

Thanks to Jim Eigo of Jazz Promo Services for Hornby’s exhortation.

NICK HORNBY, RECORD STORES, and “POP MUSIC”

I visit www.jazz.com. with some regularity, and I’ve even had my own blogposts featured on it.  A good deal of what is posted there is not my thing, but some of the content is fascinating. 

Today I encountered there an article published in the Guardian by the popular British novelist Nick Hornby on the death of record stores.  That isn’t a particularly original observation: everyone who’s bought even one record during the last half-century could write similar articles about the phenomenon. 

Hornby proposes that new pop-music blogs that offer MP3 downloads are the new local record stores, and that the internet has become a global music market.  I can’t say much about the first proposition, because I don’t find twenty-second musical snippets valid enticements to purchase, but the second is surely true.

But this casual pronouncement made me sit up straight:

After my local CD shop closed down, I was getting ready for a musical life that turned in on itself, before dying slowly from malnutrition.  Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement if you listen too much to it, but a three-minute pop song isn’t going to last you a lifetime.  Popular music needs to keep flowing. If the fresh supplies stop, it’s you that becomes stagnant.

I am enthralled by this terminally short attention span: “Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement if you listen too much to it.”  This hunger for new sensations clearly isn’t just Hornby’s artistic immaturity; it defines contemporary culture’s glorification of disposable ersatz-Art, novels that exhaust their ingenuity before the reader is well into chapter two; music that bores the listener on the first hearing.  (It all sounds dismayingly like a dystopian restaurant where the food is stale as soon as it leaves the kitchen.)       

I don’t know: I’ve been listening to Lester Young and the 1938 Kansas City Six, to Louis and the Mills Brothers, to Billie Holiday and Count Basie, to the Blue Note Jazzmen . . . for almost forty years now.  And if I were to hear one of their recordings now — even though I could hum along with it, knew the solos and the accents by heart — that music wouldn’t be “drained” for me.  The next time Hornby comes to the US for a book tour, I hope he’ll accept my offer of music that doesn’t grow old.  I’d be glad to share some Teddy Bunn and Bessie Smith records: they should restore him!

The full text of Hornby’s piece can be read at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/sep/06/nick-hornby-mp3-record-shops