It's been about five years since I went record shopping. The old-fashioned kind, where you run fingers through CDs, listen to samples of them on headphones, and ask salespeople questions and get knowledgeable answers. Of course, I shop for CDs all the time in New York, but online, which is certainly satisfying but much less fun. At Amazon, you usually know what you want before you arrive, and joy comes when albums on your wish list turn out to be available. [Photo of the Arc de Triomphe taken yesterday at 12:50 pm]
In Paris yesterday, I had a chance to shop in a traditional record store, where joy comes from not knowing what you want and being surprised by what you find. What makes shopping here even more compelling is that most of the CDs in the store's bins are imports. [Photo of Eiffel Tower taken today, at 11:05 am]
Thanks to the recommendations of two hip and kind JazzWax readers—Paul Benkimoun in Paris and Axel Van Looy in Belgium (who's on his way to Paris to shop for jazz)—I headed off to FNAC, a superstore with multiple locations in the city. After a quick cruise through the jazz section, I noticed that most of my favorite European labels were there, including Classics (at just 7 euros or $9 each), Vogue, Fresh Sound and Lonehill. Many were less expensive than buying them online in the U.S. Unfortunately, the most desirable discs were from Japan, which were double imports. Meaning I was standing in Paris, which is expensive enough to begin with, looking at CDs from Japan, which are always pricey. So Savoy albums from the 50s in mini-LP covers, for example, were about 30 euros or $40 each. Ouch.
So I rolled up my sleeves. After an hour of hunting, I was able to find five CDs that I either didn't know about, haven't been able to find or finally decided to buy because the price was right. Here's what I bagged:
Les Brown: Complete Song Books. This Lonehill CD includes Les Brown's Jazz Song Book and Swing Song Book. It features Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, Frank Rosolino and Don Fagerquist. Both albums were recorded in 1959. The former was arranged by Bill Holman and the latter by Billy May.
Thelonious Monk: Piano Solo. I've debated for some time about whether to download this Vogue CD or buy it. So the CD has remained on my B list (to add the next time I felt flush). Yesterday, the price was too good to pass up. This is a must own of Monk in Paris in 1954, and the CD contains the first solo piano version of Reflections, my favorite Monk composition.
Chet Is Back. This album has been difficult to find on CD after it went out of print. Twice I tried to order it from independent sellers at Amazon, and twice I was told the seller didn't have copies any longer. In addition to the peppery tracks recorded just after Baker was released from an Italian prison, the CD includes four superb bonus tracks Chet sings in Italian. I wrote about these tracks here.
Sonny Stitt & Zoot Sims. This two-fer combines Stitt's Just in Case You Forgot How Bad He Really Was and Sims' In a Mellow Tone. The Stitt recording is truly astonishing. As a teen, I tried to collect Stitt's LPs but gave up after 40 albums, realizing I'd be dead or broke by the time I completed it. I had overlooked this album for years figuring it was subpar. Recorded a year before Stitt's death, this one actually is a hard charger with perfect runs by Stitt on tenor and alto saxophone. When I listened to samples at FNAC yesterday, the playing was so hot and fluid that I first thought it was a Stitt recording from the 1950s. It was captured live in 1981 at Keystone Korner in San Francisco. The Sims recordings are equally rich and were recorded live at E.J.'s in Atlanta, also in 1981.
Now I just have to stay out of the stores until I leave on Wednesday. Which will be hard since I never got to explore the Brazil section at FNAC...