The Jazz Record Mart is no Tower Records. Thank God for that. This 8,500-sqare-foot gem of a store houses all of the jazz and blues that anyone could ever want. The store looks like it hasn't been updated since the late 1960s (I think I even saw a rotary phone behind the desk), and there are no nifty computers to plug keywords into as you search for a title. But what the Jazz Record Mart lacks in modern amenities it certainly makes up for with a staff that is helpful and knowledgeable.
When I first walked into the store, there was a Louis Armstrong record playing over the speakers, and a Muddy Waters video playing on the television. In addition to music, which they have on both CD and LP, the Record Mart sells posters, videos, t-shirts and books. The Jazz Record Mart also has plenty of in house performances and an occasional Sunday brunch where they serve juice and doughnuts as you listen to live performances.
The best part of my visit was talking with Bob Koester, the store's owner, who also owns the jazz and blues record label, Delmark Records. Not only did he help me find the Ravi Shankar record that I was searching for, but he also shared a little history about the Jazz Record Mart. It seems that the Jazz Record Mart is an attraction for famous jazz musicians and lovers of jazz. He told me that John Cusack stops in frequently, and that Max Roach took the entire staff out for dinner once.
This place is a must see, if you love jazz or blues music. But don't let the rudimentary set up of the store fool you, they do accept all major credit cards. (Kia Coleman)