Saturday marks the 13th annual celebration of record stores worldwide, Record Store Day. During a global pandemic, this day honoring a key part of our music community will look very different. Record stores in the Northwest are finding creative ways to keep the music community connected... and grab some outstanding previously unreleased and newly reissued jazz and blues records.
Record Store Day started in 2007 to acknowledge the importance of physical record stores, and the culture of record collectors and fans. Shoppers around Puget Sound are privileged to have several fantastic stores to choose from. But with physical gatherings strictly limited by health safety measures, the RSD tradition of mobs of record collectors climbing over each other for limited edition, exclusive colored vinyl just isn't possible.
March 13, the organizers of Record Store Day's coordinated album release schedule was pushed back from April to June. That plan soon morphed into a three-stage "properly distanced" release schedule. The RDS Drops are this Saturday, Aug. 29, Sept. 26, and Oct. 24.
Each record store will offer their own method of keeping in-store crowds to a minimum. As Record Store Day was meant to get shoppers into physical record stores, the addition of online shopping on those days is a brand new, necessary development.
I talked to Matt Kimball at Hi-Voltage Records in Tacoma about their plans. Customers wearing masks are welcome — limited to 10 shoppers at a time — from 7 to 10 a.m., then the store will close for two hours to take online orders only. "We're anticipating more people staying home and just wanting to shop online," Kimball says.
"We're going to try to make sure everyone will get a fair shake," when it comes to limited edition releases, Kimball explains. "We ordered plenty so that, even online (at 10 a.m.) there will be everything available."
Kimball told me that area record stores have been talking about their strategies, "Some people are doing online only, some are doing appointment systems.... a raffle for your spot in line."
The bottom line is safety. "We're trying to keep everyone safe, as much as we can," Kimball says.
Another creative solution: Sonic Boom Records also will limit mask-wearing customers to 10-at-a-time in their Ballard store. Opening at 11 a.m., each shopper will have just 15 minutes to grab (one copy only) of their favorite records. If you'd prefer to stay outside, just bring a list of the records you want and the staff will collect them and check you out on the sidewalk.
The Silver Platters stores (Seattle, Lynwood, Bellevue) will have socially distanced, mask-wearing shoppers lined up before 8 a.m. Store staff will hand out a list of available Record Store Day titles to customers. Those customers will indicate their 15 "top priorities" and five "alternates" ranked No. 2 through No. 6. Unavailable priority items will be replaced with alternates.
Shopping lists will be collected (in order of those lined up) for fullfillment, then shoppers with completed orders will be invited inside the store to check out. Stores will then open at 11 a.m. to their current limited occupancy, assuming the crowds have dispersed. You're encouraged to have a pen and your wish list handy.
Easy Street Records in West Seattle just announced their Saturday RSD Drop plans. Six foot social distancing and mask rules will be in effect at the stores 7am opening. Only Record Store Day titles will be availble for sale with "a select number of people in the shop at one time."
Some record stores have yet to decide how best to handle potentially large crowds during a pandemic. Contact your favorite local record store. That simple connection is part of the Record Store Day mission after all: sustaining the important place of record stores in our community.
The world of jazz and blues is well represented in the RSD Drops this year, especially this Saturday.
Born 100 years ago this Saturday, bebop legend Charlie Parker is honored with a rare live performance on vinyl for the first time. The music on the new Charlie Parker release, Jazz at Midnight, was first released as part of a CD compilation in 2001. This initial "midnight blue" pressing features Bird live at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., in recordings from 1952 and 1953. The bands included saxophonist Zoot Sims, guitarist Charlie Byrd and drummer Max Roach.
Another new Yardbird release of note is the Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 album, an unreleased concert recording of Parker with Dizzy Gillespie's band. You'll have to be patient for this one. The initial release on numbered, gold-colored vinyl limited to 1,200 copies, arrives on the second RSD Drops day, Sept. 26.
A previously unreleased Thelonious Monk live album, Palais Des Beaux-Arts 1963 features the iconic pianist at the top of his game. His steady quartet in it's fourth year, Monk was recorded for a Belgian radio broadcast in front of an enthusiastic audience. This 180 gram first pressing is limited to 2000, and includes a reproduction of the orignal concert poster.
The self-titled 1976 album, Wild Tchoupitulas' funky blend of Mardi Gras Indians backed by the Meters and the first iteration of the Neville Brothers, is long out of print. This colored vinyl reissue, sourced from the original master tapes, is limited to 1,5o0 copies.
The hard-to-find 1971 blues rock classic Hooker 'N' Heat, featuring blues legend John Lee Hooker and the young Californians of Canned Heat, gets a deluxe treatment from the French label Culture Factory. This double album comes on yellow and brown vinyl in a reproduction of the original gatefold jacket.
Other jazz items of note released Saturday include a five-LP box set from Sun Ra, a lost session from Bob James, reissued Dr John and bass legend Ron Carter's Foursight quartet live in Sweden, the double-LP is signed by Ron!
Look for more great new jazz releases and reissues on upcoming RDS Drops this fall.
Sept. 26: Bill Evans, Willie Colon, Don Cherry, Jimmy Giuffre, Charles Mingus, Dave Pike.
Oct. 24: Miles Davis, Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson.
I'm planning on visiting a record store Saturday, but if you'd prefer to stay home, support your local record store by purchasing directly from the websites of actual brick-and-mortar shops. Happy Record Store Days!