With record stores closing left and right, a music fan can be forgiven for not knowing that one of the world’s finest jazz shops still resides in Midtown Manhattan. If by chance you went walking down 26th street looking for the Jazz Record Center you’d have a hard time spotting it. Tucked away anonymously on the eighth floor of an otherwise completely unremarkable office building, the Jazz Record Center houses an astonishing treasure trove of records, DVD’s, books and various ephemera dedicated to the world of jazz.
Riding the elevator you’re hit with a slightly illicit sense of unease – almost as if you are trespassing in some random building – surely no commercial retail space could exist in such an obscure location you say to yourself, yet once the doors open to framed images of jazz titans, all lining up to greet you in the hallway.
Since 1983, owner and jazz expert Fred Cohen has manned the counter and answers questions with expert ease and aplomb. As a resource for the genre the store’s loyal clientele keep it open six days a week. The store itself is a collector’s dream. A shopper can easily drop serious cash for original mono pressings of Ellington or Django Reinhardt rarities, spend a bit more on some audiophile 45-rpm reissues of classic Blue Note titles, or even just drop a just a few bucks on cheap used lps from everyone from Clifford Brown to Tony Williams.
The shelves are filled with volumes of Down Beat magazines organized by year, Mosaic box sets and rare original posters of Sun Ra and John Coltrane concerts. Everywhere you turn you’ll find piles of artifacts, stacks of scholarly works and the records of one of 20th Century America’s greatest contributions to world culture.
Whether you’re a jazz enthusiast, novice or ripened aficionado you’ll find the Jazz Record Center to be the closest thing to a proper Jazz Museum that Manhattan has to offer. For even the most casual record shoppers, it’s an essential visit to an often forgotten world.
The Jazz Record Center
236 W 26th #804
New York, NY 10001
Monday – Saturday 10am-6pm