On vacation in Palm Desert, I finally had a chance to knock the great state of California off my list. There were a couple candidates in the area but this place was too good to pass up. Way up in the mountains, I'd need to drive an hour down treacherous winding roads. The Google Maps place didn't even have a photo, the street view showed what looked like a shack. Was this place even real? I called once to confirm and got no answer. So I called again a bit later and the person that answered did confirm their hours so I planned to set out on a Tuesday afternoon.
The drive was as wild as anything I've ever attempted. Once I drove through Big Horn National Park in Wyoming and it was similar to that but I daresay even more dangerous. It required all my mental faculties and somehow I made it. Oh, did I mention the heat (this is excessive for this area, up in the mountains, but something I've already become accustomed to out in the desert).
The same guy I spoke to on the phone was there. He told me that this is the second location of a larger shop in LA. He said he has known the owners for over 30 years and worked at both locations. He said that he watches this shop about half the week and the owners daughter watches it the rest of the time. He even told me that the owners aunt lived in town and recently died and he goes to check on the cat, presumably in an otherwise empty house.
He told me up front that the store was mostly classical but also had jazz. And that's it! No other genres. Luckily for me, jazz is the first section I go to in any store but alienating the vast majority of people who want to look at rock albums doesn't make sense. The building was beautiful. The wood work was masterful and the bins were clearly made by a craftsman, probably the nicest I've ever seen.
It was a bit odd because there were no other customers (actually, a couple did come in but upon being told that they only had classical and jazz, they bolted) so it was just me and this bearded old timer. He sat in a chair in the 'front room' (which was all classical) and I was in the 'back room' where the jazz was. So we couldn't see each other and he only spoke when spoken to. Finally I commented that I found it odd that a record would not be playing with all this silence. He had the best response ever: he wanted to save electricity! He did offer to put something on but I told him it was OK.
I looked through every single jazz album. 12 bins I think, probably 1200 records I'd guess, maybe more. I pulled out four but only bought one, and of course I have some regrets there:
- I have a good selection of Kai Winding albums on Verve in the mid 60s. This stuff isn't very high brow but is very listenable and a lot of fun. I came across one I've long been aware of but decided to leave it behind.
- I dont't buy just any CTI album I find (almost though) but I thought it would be a good idea to check out some Gabor Szabo. I started to feel like some of his 60s work would be a better buy, so I did a catch and release on that one. (I do own his collaborative album with Paul Desmond which came out in the same era, regrettably I've not spent much time listening to it.)
- I knew of Lalo Schifrin as the man who wrote the score for Enter the Dragon long before I knew he was a jazz musician. I picked up one of his older vinyls at a garage sale a long time ago and always enjoyed it. This one caught my eye because it is on Verve but also of course for the lengthy and ridiculous title. I carry some serious regret I left this one behind.
- I have a special affinity for Joe Farrell. First of all, he is from the Chicago area. He died young, what a shame. But he worked with so many of my favorite artists, especially the landmark debut from Return to Forever. Discogs says I have 14 albums he appears on and I think only one is an album he is actually credited as the main artist (joint credit, with George Benson). There was no way I was going to let this one go: CTI 6000 series with an all-star cast of side men, of course including the Mahavishnu himself! Little did I know at the time this was also the original 1970 issue (it was reissued by CTI in 1976).
I decided to toss back the Lalo Schifrin and Kai Winding right off the bat. I brought the remaining two CTI records up to be priced (the old man priced everything on sight, I had already asked). He wanted $20 each which I knew was a bit bold, even for a place like this so I told him to kick the Gabor Szabo and I made off with the Joe Farrell album. It is in mint condition with the original inner sleeve (same goes for the Gabor Szabo, though it did have a snipped corner). So I'm happy that I made out with a souvenir from such a wild day. I topped it off by attempting to do a 500' climb (over about 1.2 miles) on a really crappy rental bike I stuffed in my car. I gave up about 75% of the way and took a wild ride which topped 30mph on the way down!
STATE #38 COMPLETED!
Arizona and Nevada are on deck in the next month. In fact, I'll probably have two shots at Arizona, but the first will be only two days from now and I'll be taking advantage!