A few folks in the store have asked me what kind of records I have been really excited about recently. It is one of those questions where I can’t help but shrug my shoulders a little bit, as if to say that I like almost everything in the store. But the answer I’ve given is that I have been listening to a lot of jazz recently and it is the jazz titles in the store that I am most excited to see if people will buy.
In the last several years a few noteworthy labels and manufacturers have been releasing classic jazz albums that are high quality and fairly affordable. I have a number of these in the shop and plan to stock most if not all of these titles going forward. I didn’t know if there were jazz record buyers in Fort Collins and I didn’t know how long it would take for them to find me. I feel like no one looked at the jazz section for the first week and a half or two weeks that I was opened. Of course this is a short amount of time but I did start to worry that I might have all these albums for a very long time. That all changed on one day in week three and I’ll tell you all about it after I tell you a little about my journey to becoming a jazz fan.
In January of 1997 I was in the middle of my freshman year of college. The small school in North Carolina where I attended had a special schedule for classes in January. You took one class, it lasted for four weeks and you attended that class for three hours a day. They offered non-traditional classes and I signed up for The History Of Jazz. Of course, four weeks isn’t enough time to truly learn the history of jazz but that winter I did water the seeds of my jazz fandom for the first time.
At 9am me and about 30 other students sat in a classroom and heard the director of the school’s jazz band try to share his enthusiasm to a bunch of kids that weren’t really paying attention. At that time I was listening to lots and lots of jam bands. If a song didn’t groove, didn’t have an extended instrumental breakdown then I probably wasn’t interested. Most likely there was a part of me that knew that ‘real’ music fans liked jazz and that I wanted to be considered a ‘real’ music fan. Jazz seemed to have some parallels to the jam world, and I had heard about some jazz players jamming with bands I liked. Being honest, I was a naïve and cocky 19 year old.
We got introduced to the major names and the major eras during the class. Part of the day would be spent learning historical information and part of the time would be spent listening to various players and compositions. Most of this information didn’t stick with me, the only artist and song that I will swear we heard was Lester Young playing Lester Leaps In. I probably got a B in the class.
A couple of years later I had moved out west and was searching for music that was new to me. I purchased a live Thelonious Monk DC, John Coltrane’s first album on Prestige and Steamin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet. The later two are the ones I remember playing over and over again. It was different and the lack of vocals was something that appealed to me. I was taking a couple of creative writing classes and writing to jazz seemed like the kind of thing that Jack Kerouac would do. From there it was still a slow and steady 15 years before I became a big jazz fan and a big jazz record buyer.
Speaking of buying jazz records. When I opened the shop I felt like I had a small but quality jazz section, both new and used, and I was waiting for people to find it. One day during our third week that finally happened. One afternoon two men in their fifties walked in and immediately asked if I had a jazz section. I pointed them in the right direction then sat by the cash register smiling while I heard their excitement grow. Over and over one of them would say to the other, “this is great, do you have this one?” Between their talking amongst themselves one or the other of them would break away and point out a record to me. I felt good inside. I think they picked up five LPs that day and walked out of the store happy.
A few hours later a guy in his 30’s walked in and asked how long the store had been here. Lots of folks had been asking that and I assured this guy that he had not been missing anything, that we were brand new. He spotted the jazz section right away and mentioned that he had ordered several of the records online recently. But he also found a couple that he had not seen online and purchased those. We talked for a while and I told him how I hoped that people would start to find these records and that they would break the habit of ordering from a faceless company online and buy from Driver 8 Records instead. He said he surely would and complimented me on the entirety of our inventory. Another jazz collector had found the store and left excited about what we offered.
Since that day I have sold a number of other jazz titles to people buying a variety of records. Jazz will never be our largest or most popular section but I feel like we are on the right path with this uniquely American art form.
If you are a beginner to jazz stop by the store and ask for a recommendation.