The First Five: One Man’s Introduction To Jazz

A nice article from NPR about one jazz fans first 5 records.

I’m old, so my earliest experiences buying music involve going to record stores in the Washington, D.C., area to pick up LPs. I frequented The Turntable near my home and the Soul Shack downtown. But, more often than not, I found myself browsing the bins in a store just south of Dupont Circle called Discount Records and Books. 

I was buying folk, blues and rock, mostly. I’ll never forget standing at the register, proudly holding my copy of The Mothers of Invention’s We’re Only in It for the Money — the one with the inside-out parody cover of Sgt. Pepper’s with the Mothers in dresses. I looked over my shoulder to meet the gaze of an older patron, whose scornful glare could have peeled paint.

The store had a great staff; they were the best teachers for a young music fan like me. I talked regularly with all of them, especially Rusty Bogart, who would discuss the latest country blues reissues from Yazoo and Biograph. Then, one day, I decided I needed to learn about jazz, so I approached Thomas Paul, whom everyone called TP. He was a big guy with a medium ‘fro. As I recall, when I asked to be enlightened, he thought for just a moment before he started pulling records. He had a sense of what I liked in other music, and he knew what I should hear.

These were not academic choices intended to educate me about the history of the music. There was no Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington — these were TP’s personal choices. This was the music that leaped first to his mind, the stuff he really wanted me to hear: Bird and Diz,Two Hours With Thelonious, Charles Mingus’ Better Get It in Your Soul and Live at the Five Spot, Vol. 1 by Eric Dolphy and Booker Little.

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