Chained Melodies

The merger of St. Louis-based Streetside Records with CD World may come at a price.

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As reported in the May 14 issue of Billboard, Streetside Records, locally owned and managed for over 30 years, is set to merge with New Jersey-based CD World; together the two chains will comprise 19 stores. The deal, which should close by July 1, makes CD World president/owner David Lang the majority shareholder and Streetside owner Jack Brozman the minority shareholder. Randy Davis, longtime president of Streetside, will remain on board, although his official title is uncertain.

Along with three pals, Brozman founded Streetside in 1971, when he was just a college junior. By the end of the decade, Streetside had three branches and only one owner, Brozman, who bought out his partners' shares.

So far, details about Streetside's future are sketchy. Will buying be centralized? Will all nine Missouri branches (six in St. Louis, two in Kansas City, one in Columbia) stay open for business? Will the name change? Will jobs be cut locally? Davis could not be reached for comment, so we're forced to speculate.

From a purely fiscal standpoint, the merger -- which could very well be a euphemism for "buy-out" -- makes sense. Like all segments of corporate America in this glorious age of consolidation and conglomeration, the music industry punishes the little guys. Small-scale retailers have suffered mightily at the hands of the big chains and mega-stores, which are able to sell new CDs at lower prices, often below cost, and offer special "exclusive-release" deals that aren't always available to independent music stores [Radar Station, January 9]. By merging with a bigger company, Streetside could save some money, gain a competitive advantage and make its stockholders a little happier.

These perks come with a price, however. One anonymous insider predicts that all the buying for the new chain will be centralized, possibly out of state: "The result will probably be a number of people either losing their jobs or being asked to relocate," he says. Out-of-state buying means less sensitivity to the vagaries of the regional market, which could be bad news for local artists and their fans. How's some suit in New Jersey gonna know about Da Hol' 9, for instance? Shareholders love it when companies streamline purchasing and eliminate redundancies -- anything that makes the corporation more profitable is practically a commandment in today's marketplace. It's bad news, however, for all of us who like a little regional flava in our shopping experience.

On June 11, local jazz quintet the Bohemians celebrate the release of their second full-length CD, Something Like This, at the Sheldon Concert Hall. The 12 self-produced songs aren't pushing any boundaries, but they're decidedly likable, with a silky -- but never effete -- retro acoustic sound. It's inevitable that people will label this cocktail jazz, but if forced to compare the Bohemian sound to an alcoholic beverage, we'd say it's much more like cognac than a martini. Like a snifter of Courvoisier, it goes down smooth, warm and pleasant but still packs a powerful kick. Singer/guitarist Bob Bailey cites influences as diverse as Lennon and McCartney, Cab Calloway, Django Reinhardt and the brothers Gershwin -- a combination that could spell disaster if the band's chops weren't quite up to snuff. Fortunately, his fellow musicians -- Mike Killian on accordion, bass and lead guitars; Lenny Mink on bass, lead guitar and vocals; Robleigh on drums and Budimir Zvolanek on clarinet -- are better than competent. This isn't just langorous swoon and swing for the ironic young neo-lounge hepster set; it's passionate, well-executed and uniquely moving. Small wonder that the Bohemians have scored a cred-enhancing blurb from no less a luminary than Nat Hentoff, Village Voice jazz critic and former editor of Down Beat -- like Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire and precious few other practitioners of what one local wag calls "rooty, tooty '30s music," the Bohemians aren't fusty historians. As Hentoff says, it's "timeless in that it endures beyond fads and fashion because it is pleasurable to listen to again and again." Don't miss your chance to savor the Bohemians' considerable pleasures: They take the stage early, at 7:30 p.m., and play until 9:00.

On Friday, June 7, the legendary trumpeter Buddy Childers will return to his hometown of Belleville, Illinois, to perform with the Sessions Big Band. The concert, which benefits the Belize Crippled Children Project of Rotary District 6510, takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral (1549 Frank Scott Parkway West). Tickets are $20 and may be purchased in advance by calling organizer Don Barlow at 618-281-5588.

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