01 August 2007

Elegy for a Music Shop

Each summer for about a decade I've spent a month teaching in Ann Arbor. And each sumer I have spent a bunch of time browsing the bins at Schoolkids Records, usually finding lots of things to buy that I'd never heard of or had heard of but never come across elsewhere. The shop has always carried discs by great musicians on relatively obscure labels. So, this summer I've picked up a couple of old Archie Shepp/Horace Parlan blues and gospel duets on Steeplechase, a brand new live two-disc release by Dave Douglas Quintet on Greenleaf, two Andrew Hill releases from a few years back on Palmetto, the Kaspar Villaume Quartet featuring Chris Potter on Stunt Records, Billy Bang w/ Frank Lowe live on JustinTime, and a Chip Taylor/Carrie Rodriguez cd on Trainwreck. You get the point.

Well, Schoolkids is closing as an actual "location" this Friday. They will continue to provide a web-based service which (according to their web site) says they will be able to get you any in-print title. That is terrific, except I probably would not have known any of the discs I bought this summer actually existed had I not physically been in the shop. So, while I wish the Schoolkids folks good luck, I worry about the prospects for a solely on-line endeavor especially at so small a scale.

Ironically, in the liner notes to his cd ("Live at Jazz Standard") Dave Douglas laments the demise of local record stores and the musical ecology they provided, especially for fans of non-pop genres. Schoolkids has offered just such a focal point here in Ann Arbor. When it closes the town will be culturally poorer.

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