FOYLES JAZZ DEPT: A goldmine of bargains; a pleasure to visit

Ray's Jazz At Foyles

Contributing editor Tony Andrews writes .....

"For jazz lovers who marginalise streaming and downloads, this place is somewhere between a shrine and a temple"

When Howard Popeck asked me if I would write a series of articles about Hidden Treasures in Music or possibly related subjects I thought he was very brave as I’m very self opinionated and don’t take prisoners when on my high horse!

One of the pleasures of loving music for me is the purchasing of Records or CDs to create a collection to cherish for life. This compulsion has been with me for nearly 50 years; it’s in my emotional DNA. Consequently I have a vast selection to chose from. This gives me great satisfaction. But there’s always more; much more. Let me welcome you into my addiction.

In my opinion the worst thing to happen to the music industry is the abomination “The Download”. Gone is the pleasure of owning the Record or CD only to get some digital data sent to your laptop or one of those alleged Hi-Fi gadgets that replace your collection. The outcome of this travesty is that The Record Retailer Industry has collapsed especially in Central London; where I spend a lot of my waking hours.

It was always an adventure to travel to the West End when there were two HMV's in Oxford Street plus a huge Virgin Records. A short walk down Regent Street and it was impossible to miss Tower Records overshadowing the Statue Eros. These are now a thing of the past with only one HMV in Oxford Street which although on the original site of the inaugural shop is nowhere near as extensive as either of the previous two outlets.

If you walk down Charing Cross Road there are two places still worth visiting. One is FOPP which although owned by HMV appears to have a considerably more friendly atmosphere and their prices are usually more competitive than HMV's own stores.

However the star of record retailers in the West End has to be nearby - thanks to the amazing Foyles New Bookshop. This temple of culture only services two genres of music; Jazz and Classical. No bad thing really because most pop music is of unspeakable quality. There are exceptions of course and I'll will address in further posts here.

Foyles Jazz Department was formed after the original Ray's Jazz Records was saved from extinction by the action of the new owner and is now arguably the finest shop of it's kind anywhere in the UK.

The manager Frank van Binsbergen has been in charge since September 2007. He’s full of knowledge and without arrogance. In short, a very nice man. I love to go rummaging in their sale section where you can get some incredible bargains. I often buy a CD without even being acquainted with the performer just because the cover is inspiring and because its inexpensive.

More often than not I find the ‘gamble pays off. Sometimes a true gem / hidden treasure. A visit is unhesitatingly recommended. The Classical department is even larger and they have a vast range of recordings to chose from with expert and friendly help readily available . I’m in no doubt that there are other record retailers who do a reasonable job but …. Foyles is the default benchmark.

Visits there have given me more pleasure than any I can think of when building my jazz library. If you really are a jazz-loving bargain hunter then I urge you to make the pilgrimage. Once bitten, you’ll be returning on a regular basis. I can almost guarantee this!

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