Where to buy jazz ? Why Branford Marsalis recommends the Bop Shop

I found out about the Bop Shop when I was going to a concert at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Whenever I go into a new town, the first thing I say is, ”Record shop?” In Rochester, a guy answered, ”The Bop Shop.” The thing that makes this record store so cool is that the people who work here like music. I can spend an hour or an hour and a half in the store, not just buying records, but talking with the proprietor, Tom Kohn. The guys don’t just sit there the way they would in some national chain, collecting $2.95 an hour. It’s not somebody with a nose ring and a heavy-metal T-shirt who doesn’t know anything about music.

Here’s another reason I like the Bop Shop so much: For years I’d been looking for Thelonious Monk doing the original version of a song called ”Criss-Cross.” The first version had an eight-bar bridge, but Monk revised the tune to give it a six-bar bridge. I had always preferred the eight-bar-bridge version, and I was telling the owner of the store that I really wanted to get the Monk album with it but I couldn’t find it. He said, ”Oh, it’s not on a Thelonious Monk record. It’s on a Milt Jackson record with Monk.” And I said, ”Damn. Get me that record.” And he did.

It’s a hands-on store, a dying breed. Kohn stocks the records he likes as well as the records that sell a lot of copies. You can find a David Murray record or a Horace Tapscott record. He’s got old Sonny Rollins, old Blue Notes. He’ll order things for you — other stores say they’ll get it for you in three or four weeks, but he’ll get it for you in three or four days.

I just spent $200 here on records — all vinyl. I went in and said I wanted blues. They said, ”We got ’em.” I bought three Howlin’ Wolfs, two Sonny Boy Williamsons, one Son House. I also got some novelty records and (at the sister store, Recorded Classics), some classical and some operas.

Good record-store owners do what they do because they love the music. They’re like good musicians — a small minority who deal with the music because they love it.

— Saxophonist Branford Marsalis is currently working on a jazz trio album, due out in late summer.