Record Storing: Sweet Home Alabama

September has been good to me this year. Besides being my birthday month, I paid a few visits to a few record stores. Those trips were quite productive, and I’ve been extremely excited about it ever since. Luckily, I have this blog where I can write about said excitement!

First up, my trip down to my local record store, which also happens to be the best record store in Alabama. To the records!

The Store

  • Vertical House Records
  • Huntsville, Alabama
My birthday present from me at the record store to get more birthday presents for me.

The Records

I stuck to what I was familiar with, picking up albums with names I recognized. I found an interesting RCA album with three different artists on it, but it isn’t a sampler. Featuring a not-yet-20 years old Gary Burton, Sonny Rollins, and Clark Terry, the album features three short but tasty tracks from each artist. The cover was pretty beat up, and combined with the $5 price, I didn’t expect it to sound that great. I was gloriously wrong. Score.

Speaking of beat up, I stumbled upon Donald Byrd’s ‘Black Byrd’ album, and although I wasn’t familiar with the album, I knew enough about Donald Byrd to know that this was one of his more funky, psychedelic albums. The old picture on the front called my name, and for $2, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Putting it on my turntable, it was crackly but otherwise fine. I crossed my fingers and ran it through my record cleaner (a Spin Cleaner, not one of those fancy shmancy electronic numbers that also make you coffee while you wait), and the results were unbelievable. It still has some crackles but it sounds amazing. So great is the album that I bought it on iTunes just so I could listen to it in my car.

Being a Californian who shamelessly enjoys West Coast jazz, I scooped up an album by Paul Smith on Capitol entitled ‘Delicate Jazz’. The flower on the cover and the title are terrible representations of both West Coast jazz and the music on the album, while serving as perfect ammunition for the crowd that hates West Coast jazz. Yikes. As great as Paul Smith is, I grabbed the album mostly because tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper is on deck, and he doesn’t disappoint.

The Phineas Newborn Jr. album was an easy pick. I like him and his playing, and I don’t see his albums enough, probably because there weren’t too many of them released. This is a trio album, with the great Ray Brown on bass and the great Elvin Jones on drums, which makes quite the unorthodox trio. It works though. Recorded by Contemporary, it sounds beautiful.

The Impulse! album was extremely intriguing. Entitled ‘Americans In Europe Vol. 1’, it features recordings of various American expats performing live at a concert in Germany in early 1963. The roster is varied and solid, with big names like Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke playing with less-known but equally great guys like Jim Gourley and Lou Bennett. I personally grabbed it when I saw that Herb Geller (a bandmate of Paul Desmond) was performing in a quintet with Bill Smith (a bandmate of Dave Brubeck). The music is fantastic and recorded to perfection.

The George Shearing album is one of his few live albums and I’ve wanted it ever since I heard their version of “Joy Spring”. Succinct, swinging, and solid. Plus, the cover art is pretty neat to me. A beautiful full-color night scene of Hollywood circa the late 1950’s/early 60’s with someone’s grandparents dressed for a night on the town? I’ll take it.

The main source of my excitement and elation was the acquisition of two particular records by an unusual jazz group: The Turtle Island String Quartet. I first became aware of them last year through Instagram, of all places. I’ll save the whole story for when I write about their albums (which I plan to do soon, because my word they’re absolutely GREAT), but I became a fan immediately when I heard their cover of Horace Silver’s tune “Ecaroh”. I bought the album on iTunes when I found out they covered Duke Pearson’s tune “Jeannine” on the same album. That was last year. Imagine my shock when I walked into the record store, flipped through the new arrivals bin in the jazz section, and found THE SAME ALBUM ON VINYL. I yelled. As the record store owner walked over to see what was wrong, I yelled again when I found a SECOND album by the group. Never in my short life have I snatched an album so quickly from the bin. I hope your curiosity is piqued, because I’ll be writing about these albums in the extremely near future. Because mercy these albums are just… mercy.

That’s the gist of my trip to my favorite record store on earth. Shoutout to the store’s owner, Andy, for being awesome and for telling me about the new records as soon as I walked in the store. Never have I been more happy to part ways with $87.

…And yes, I did buy a Maroon 5 album on vinyl in the year 2019, and I have no shame in doing so. “Sunday Morning” has been among my favorite non-jazz songs since I first heard it the mall in 2005. Shoot me.

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