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The Magnificent Goldberg

Starbucks and music

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I don't go to Starbucks in the UK, so the few visits I made while I was in Austin and Fort Worth were the only occasions I've been there. But, apart from their ability to make tea, I was struck by the music I heard. Not just for what it was but as much for the odd things that one wouldn't expect.

Jazzbo and I spent a pleasant half hour or so, trying to guess the hard bop stuff that was playing in Austin - and by the way, the pianist on Stanley Turrentine's "Alone together" was McCoy Tyner, not Sonny Clark, as I'd suggested. But that was a somewhat odd one.

Two of three visits in Fort Worth brought more jazz - less focussed on hard bop - and one evening in which Soul & R&B was on the menu. The usual Soul suspects but, once more, some decidedly odd tracks, eg Chuck Berry's "Havana moon" - who would have thought of including that?

What I expected in those towns was country or country rock. Was I just lucky to hit the right places at the right times or is there a general policy in Starbucks to play black music? If the latter is the case, I begin to see some sense in the firm's strategic alliance with Concord.

MG

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I suspect that the music played at Starbucks is heavily dictated from the top. Sweden's first Starbucks opened only a few months ago, but when I visited Scotland in 2008 three different Starbucks cafés were playing the exact same Blue Note sampler (presumably one of those that were put out by Starbucks themselves a few years ago).

Edited by Daniel A

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Starbucks does play a heavy dose of jazz in their stores. At times there will be other styles of music.

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At one point, didn't Starbucks offer that History of Blue Note DVD as a point-of-purchase sale item? I think the coffee is utterly horrendous (funny that I like their coffee ice cream) and the sale methods pretentious in the extreme but I am not surprised that you heard a good deal of jazz inside.

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Never been to Starbucks, but a local friend often mentions the great jazz CDs that he's picked up there.

This is probably unusual for a large corporation to be playing such music.

In the places I frequent, they're usually independently owned joints where they're freer in their choice of music.

Yesterday, I was having lunch with a friend who had studied tap dance with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and

of course, we always end up talking about jazz and he was singing the praises of a new restaurant

that he'd recently went to that had vegetarian tacos and piped in, probably satellite, jazz.

I told him that it may be the same jazz station that a local breakfast-brunch joint

just a mile away plays (quite loudly I might add!).

So it does happen 'round these parts - more often than one would expect.

®ø∂

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Whatever one thinks of Starbucks, they do take music seriously. They have their own CD series that consists of generally thoughtful collections of a number of artists, mostly in jazz, R&B, country, and rock.

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I've heard Hank tootling away at several of the UK stores. Stanley T figures prominently there too.

Must admit that I quite like their House Blend coffee and even buy it packaged from the supermarket to brew at home.. :blush2:

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My 22-year-old daughter, who barely tolerates the music I play, announced when I was watching a Horace Silver DVD yesterday that "they play this music in Starbuck's, you know". No sign of me rushing down there yet, though! :lol:

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Our various local Starbucks places in Kansas City play a variety of background music, none true to our region of the country. Jazz is often being played, usually of the hard bop era. I have never heard any Kansas City jazz played at a Kansas City Starbucks. I do not think that there is any effort made to match the music to the city.

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Heard Peggy Lee doing "Lullabye of Birdland" there this morning.

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Whatever one thinks of Starbucks, they do take music seriously. They have their own CD series that consists of generally thoughtful collections of a number of artists, mostly in jazz, R&B, country, and rock.

Thanks John. So I wasn't just lucky. Incredible.

MG

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Yep. They do play some good music, veering into acoustic blues sometimes as well. The one up the street here is open 24-7.

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I'm always amazed at how long it takes to get served in these sorts of places. There's always a few people in front of me who insist on having marshmallows, chocolate chippings and wafer biscuits blended to be sprinkled on top of their skinny latte.

Gives time to listen to the music, I suppose.

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Really? I've never waited (outside rush hour). I think the "house blend" is fine. Never paid attention to the music since I only stop while on the road - better tunes in the car. :rolleyes:

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Starbucks is where I picked up the excellent new release by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings for 13 bucks. Who would have figured?

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If you ever worked in a bricks & motor record store it makes perfect sense - we sent a good part of every day trying to figure out what customers had heard at some coffee shop/restaurant/whatever...but if you worked there it would drive you crazy 'cause they hear the same thing over & over.

Edited by danasgoodstuff

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If you ever worked in a bricks & motor record store it makes perfect sense - we sent a good part of every day trying to figure out what customers had heard at some coffee shop/restaurant/whatever...but if you worked there it would drive you crazy 'cause they hear the same thing over & over.

In the morning you might wish to clean up this post. :unsure:

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I was going to start a thread about how I've been hearing pretty good jazz in the lobbies of hotels in both Canada and the US. Has mainstream jazz literally become elevator music? (That's not "mainstream" in the old sense of being contrasted to bop. In fact I've heard a lot of bop in hotel public spaces recently.)

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There's always a few people in front of me who insist on having marshmallows, chocolate chippings and wafer biscuits blended to be sprinkled on top of their skinny latte.

That's a particularly bad syndrome in London at those 'Costa' (lotta) places. Give 'em all instant coffee in cracked mugs, I say..

Edited by sidewinder

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I used to visit the Starbucks in St Katharine's Docks near the Tower of London every day until about a year ago. Jazz was pretty standard background music (except when McCartney's Memory Almost Full was being promoted), and it was all pretty mainstream stuff, albeit good mainstream. One day, though, my ears pricked up at what sounded like an Andrew Hill track amid all the usual stuff -- quite far out by Starbucks standards. I assumed it was a mistake. In any case, no one seemed to notice the difference.

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There's always a few people in front of me who insist on having marshmallows, chocolate chippings and wafer biscuits blended to be sprinkled on top of their skinny latte.

That's a particularly bad syndrome in London at those 'Costa' (lotta) places. Give 'em all instant coffee in cracked mugs, I say..

I only was at Starbucks three or four times, always with the same buddy who likes their coffee... very much the same here, three or four folks and you wait ten minutes or so. Didn't notice the music though, hate the place... also it spreads like some fungus or some such, there must be ten or twelve in town by now.

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Yep, jazz & soul here a lot, Nina Simone, Sintra.... nice enough, though truthfully I don't like classy background music, I'd rather have silence or something more ambient. I'm getting real sick of the same Ella+Louis track turning up again & again, too.

Starbucks coffee is.... distinctive. Some days I like it, some days I hate it--always have to add more sugar & cream than I normally would to cut the flavour a little--but given a choice I go to a good nonchain coffee shop if I can find one. Unfortunately the only decent coffee shop in my area opens at noon (!) so it's hard to get your morning fix.

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It's trendy to hate Starbucks, but when they came to Kansas City they elevated the level of coffee quality across the board, in my opinion. I like their house blend, Sumatran, Suluwesi, and Komodo Dragon coffee. They have had a good selection of CDs over the years, generally including quality jazz. It seems like they carry less variety in their CD selection now, compared to a few years ago.

Some of the Starbucks in the Kansas City metro area are laid back neighborhood gathering places, some are not. It depends a lot on the location.

I have tried some of the smaller coffee shop chains, and some of the independent coffee shops, and can't see any great moral virtues which they possess compared to Starbucks, while you are actually inside the stores ordering and drinking coffee.

I used to visit the Starbucks in St Katharine's Docks near the Tower of London every day until about a year ago. Jazz was pretty standard background music (except when McCartney's Memory Almost Full was being promoted), and it was all pretty mainstream stuff, albeit good mainstream. One day, though, my ears pricked up at what sounded like an Andrew Hill track amid all the usual stuff -- quite far out by Starbucks standards. I assumed it was a mistake. In any case, no one seemed to notice the difference.

I think that is a common experience. I have heard some wailing Coltrane tracks at my neighborhood Starbucks, and no one looks up. It's all unknown background music to most people, who don't really care to know who is playing or singing it, I think.

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It's trendy to hate Starbucks, but when they came to Kansas City they elevated the level of coffee quality across the board, in my opinion.

Yeah, well - no need for that over here! :)

Still, plenty of folks think Starbucks is trendy (rather than hating it), hence they grow and grown (and probably put some other, smaller, contenders, offering real coffee, out of business, on the way).

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I was going to start a thread about how I've been hearing pretty good jazz in the lobbies of hotels in both Canada and the US. Has mainstream jazz literally become elevator music?

Pretty much.

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