The above photograph has served as my desktop wallpaper since April, when I was getting all jazzed up for Record Store Day. I knew almost nothing about the photo when I right-clicked it and selected “Set as desktop background,” aside from the fact that it caught my eye, and that its generous pixel count made it good wallpaper material. I’ve looked at it either hundreds or thousands of times since, usually lingering on the style of the clothing, the apparent lack of record jackets, or the way the man on the left is draping his arm over the register.
I decided to do a little digging yesterday, and as it turns out, this picture was taken in 1947 at the Commodore Music Shop in Manhattan, and the suave-looking draper on the left is the store’s owner, a man named Milt Gabler. The son of Jewish immigrants, Gabler was a legend in the recording industry, having been the first person to deal in reissues, the first to sell records by mail order, and the first to give written credit to all the musicians who appeared on a recording. That last honor came from his time as a producer, during which he oversaw the recording of some of the most influential music of the twentieth century, including Bill Haley & His Comets’ ”Rock Around the Clock.” Oh, and did I mention HE’S BILLY CRYSTAL’S UNCLE? Small world, right?
It got even smaller when I googled “Sidney Bechets Trio” — the only legible text on the flyer to the right of the clock above Gabler’s killer combover.
That’s how I found out that Sidney Bechet (there was an apostrophe on the flyer I couldn’t see) is the influential New-Orleans-born saxophonist and clarinetist who wrote the music that graces the title sequence of Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning flick, Midnight in Paris. Guess who bought the Midnight in Paris soundtrack with iTunes gift card money, even though he didn’t love the movie? (My decision to do so feels almost fated in retrospect.) Bechet’s contribution, entitled “Si tu vois ma mère,” is an unbelievably beautiful composition (it would have to be to measure up to a Parisian montage), with a melody that’s both romantic and sleepy, as if it’s mimicking the movement of eyelids that are trying desperately to stay open, so their owner can gaze upon a loved one just a little longer.
I had no idea all this history was staring me in the face for three months. It’s a great reminder that as massive as the musical universe is, connections are everywhere, and many of them are just a Google search away. Check out Bechet’s version of “Si tu vois ma mère” below, along with an even sleepier version by Reykjavík Swing Syndicate, and buy the Midnight in Paris soundtrack here.