[JPL] starBUCKS & Concord
blaise.lantana at riomail.maricopa.edu
Fri Mar 23 20:29:56 EDT 2007
Jim, thanks for the Starbucks story; I really enjoyed hearing the truth of
how it all began.
Sometimes, as a socialist recovering revolutionary I know I'm too eager to
condemn, especially corporate products and agendas.
Another good thing about Starbucks is that although the wages are not the
highest, they do pay health insurance for part time employees. When I
interviewed some young New York players they talked about how MANY of the
young jazz cats in NY were working in Starbucks part time to get the
insurance and the coffee of course, sometimes working mornings after a late
So Starbucks is already subsidizing jazz in the big apple.
I believe that anyone who is playing music that isn't top forty in their
store, is doing a service to music and musicians and listeners. If they
make money while they are at it, cool.
Well, Arturo, I guess you probably wouldn't know that back in the 70s
Starbucks was just one small storefront in the Pike Place Market, a
farmer's market in Seattle. People were drawn to the smell of great
coffee and discovered they liked coffee that was recently roasted,
ground and brewed better than canned Folgers in an aluminum percolator.
After a few years, the young 20-something entrepreneurs who operated
this small independent business had built enough demand for their then
unique product/service they took a chance to open a second store in
University Village, and then a store at Northgate, and one at South
Center, and then in Tacoma and .... somewhere along the line, (50
stores? 100 stores?) they became big, bad despised capitalists in some
people's minds. Maybe it was when they opened in Miami, New York or
While it's not my favorite coffee today, I have to say Starbucks has
been very supportive of jazz. One barista had such a good selection of
recorded jazz playing in his store, people asked if they could get a
collection of music like that - and Hear Music was born. Timothy Jones
was the guy, and he called me for advice and liner notes for some of
the early compilation CDs. They began doing an annual "Hot Java Cool
Jazz" concert inviting six top high school jazz bands to perform in the
biggest and most prestigious concert halls in Seattle, and sold it out
every year... they're still doing it. They've also had lots of
informal concerts by young musicians in their shops, paying them, too!
Then Ray Brown recorded a trio album with Geoff Keezer & Karriem
Riggins at a neighborhood Starbucks at 23rd & Jackson in Seattle, near
the center of the old "after hours" jazz scene in the 40s. That CD and
one by Dave Brubeck Quartet at Starbucks on Park Avenue South in
Manhattan were issued on Telarc. In short, they're probably the most
jazz-friendly corporations I can think of.
Like any corporation, accountants and stockholders start having an
influence and the "what's in it for us?" part of the equation gets more
weight in decision making, but by and large it's a surprisingly
sensitive organization for as large as it has grown. For example,
corporate officers served meals in at the Union Gospel Mission's 100th
birthday party in Seattle yesterday. Starbucks is high on the list of
corporate giving in several areas of the arts and service sectors.
Their corporate social responsility policy is one of the best I've
But it all began with a couple of guys who found a way to make a better
cup of coffee. That's entrepreneurship, independent business and
capitalism in the best sense. And incidently, that little Starbucks
store is still in the Pike Place Market in Seattle hardly changed from
the way it looked thirty years ago.
Concord, on the other hand .... Well, it was Carl Jefferson's baby
which grew out of a little jazz festival the then car dealer threw in
his town of Concord CA, and they decided to record some of the concerts
and issue them. "Jeff" only booked musicians he liked and he recorded
only those he liked, just like a lot of the labels (Prestige, Fantasy,
Riverside, etc) that later became part of the Concord family. But
after "Jeff" things started to change and the personal concern and
love for the music seemed to begin disappearing. We can only hope
that this huge and very important catalogue stays intact and available.
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