Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Visit Backstreet Records, Fredericton and St. John New Brunswick

Backstreet Records

Just in from a really nice time at Backstreet Records here in Fredericton. Located in the heart of the city's historic district, Backstreet Records is a good old fashioned record store -- independent, funky, friendly, and loaded with interesting stuff. Had that good old fashioned feel to it with handwritten signs, mixed bins of new and used CDs and records, oops vinyls (or maybe the used should be called records and the new vinyls). Up a flight of stairs and into wonderland -- posters, music, newspapers -- "Exclaim" as I understand it is a free national paper on all types of music that I will be looking through later -- and a chance to spend an hour or so with jazz, the blues, singer-songwriters, folk, any genre save classical seemed to be there, in vinyl or CD. And they produce a blog that they use to update folks on new music, concerts and festivals, etc. - http://backstreetrecords.blogspot.ca/.

Founded in St. John in 1980, with the Fredericton store opened in 1988, Backstreet Records appears to have a nice little business going and does not appear to be going anywhere soon, especially now with the return of vinyl as a valued medium, particularly among teens and college kids moving away from all downloads. According to Eric, the store manager, vinyl is now making up somewhere in the area of 2./3 of all sales, be it new vinyl or old records. This parallels the experiences I have seen across the country, and is a good sign for the viability of some of those stores we all worry about. And while I am at it, I have to note that Eric was great to talk with, an eclectic listener who knew a lot about most any genre we discussed. His take on jazz in the area is that most of the people who come in to buy it are looking for the classics or new releases by the well-known, so the store stocks "Kind of Blue", "Giant Steps" etc. But I still found things from Ornette Coleman, Carla Bley, Myra Melford, Ken Vandermark, and others of the free and avant garde movements that tells me there are others out there too who come here with an open mind. So while jazz is a small part of the store, it is any interesting and ecclectic collection.

As you know from my previous posts, I don't leave a store without picking up some CDs, and in this case I left with five at nice prices -- two jazz, two singer-songwriter, and one classic rock. We listened the two jazz CDs while I browsed and while we talked, so I can safely report on both.

Global Warming "Global Warming" (Fantasy, 1998) finds Sonny Rollins playing beautifully with a lot of depth and richness coming from his tenor sax as he addresses his concerns for  environmental issues through his music. He wrote four of the songs, using the calypso beat that made "St. Thomas" such a standard, for the title track "Global Warming". His other compositions are "Mother Nature's Blues," "Echo-Side Blues," and "Clear Cut Boogie." The group hits their groove as well on "Island Lady" and Gerswin's "Change Partners." The music is even livelier when his quartet becomes a sextet on " Island Lady", "Global Warming" and Clear-Cut Boogie", with nephew Clifton Anderson lighting it up on trombone.

Product DetailsThe other piece of jazz is Joe Lovano's "Flights of Fancy" (Blue Note 2001) which is sub-titled trio fascination edition two. On it, Lovano plays with four different trios, Cameron Brown and  Idris Muhammad, Billy Drews and Joey Baron, Toots Theilman and Kenny Werner, or Dave Douglas and Mark Dresser. Thus we have very different trios and sounds on this CD, with Lovano playing a wide range of instruments across them --- tenor, alto, alto clarinet, soprano sax, bass clarinet, C-melody sax, gongs and percussion, and drums. A highlight from my first listen were "I'll Remember April" with Thielmanns and Werner and Lovano on tenor, but I am sure there are many others to hear. A quote from AllMusic.com sums it up well: 

... Lovano's "trio fascination" has deep roots, and the music on this record is a cumulative and probably near-exhaustive survey of his abilities within the form. One only need contrast "Hot Shot" or "Flights of Fancy" or the obscure McCoy Tyner ballad "Aisha" with modernist, offbeat abstractions like "Amber" and "Amsterdam" by trio four, or "Off and Runnin'" by trio two, to get an idea of Lovano's artistic range.

Should be a cool listen to get into.

And the three non-jazz CDs:

"Sing the Delta" (Flariella Records 2012) by Iris DeMent, a brand new recording and her first since 2004. She has always been a greeat folk/country sing-songwriter and I expect good things from this new release.

Live at Amoeba
Sing the Delta"Live at Amoeba" (Dine Alone Records 2012) by The Civil Wars, an eight song CD that I understand was issued for Record Day this year. This folk/pop team hit is big last year with "Barton Hollow"  (Sensibility Records 2011) but may be even better known now that they recorded a song with
Taylor Swift, "Safe and Sound," which was part of the score for The Hunger Games. 

With the BeatlesFinally, I could not leave The Beatles historic disc "With The Beatles" (Parlophone 1963) behind when it was only $6.99. This is the British release, which only arrived in the U.S. later in life, so even if I have all the songs it is still a CD I do not have in the collection.

So that's it, a fine trip to Fredericton and a nice store for music lovers to hang out. And do not ever forget, Leonard Cohen started his 2009-10 right here in Fredericton, a concert immortalized on an EP that was produced for Record Day. That alone tells me this is a hip place for music.

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