Saturday (April 21, 2018) is Record Store Day, a day which celebrates the culture of independent record stores. To mark it, interviewed John Thompson, the owner of The Record Centre in Ottawa. His store's core business is vintage vinyl and audio equipment, but he's expanded beyond that into supporting Ottawa's live music scene.

John Thompson ©Brett Delmage, 2016
John Thompson with part of his extensive jazz stock at The Record Centre ©Brett Delmage, 2016

John Thompson is always on the hunt for great music.

For decades, he's been collecting and selling used vinyl – making a living doing exactly he loves and not having a "real job" – with jazz records a good part of his stock.

But more recently, he's expanded into current music – hosting live shows by local and touring musicians, and running his own record label.

Since 2014, Thompson's Record Centre store in Hintonburg has become a place for local musicians, including many jazz groups, to showcase their projects. The store has hosted more than 300 shows in the last four years. Some live-off-the-floor recordings at the store have been released on the store's own Record Centre record label.

One of the biggest live music events at the store was all jazz: 24 groups in 24 hours at the Jazz Ramble in 2016. Thompson said the store will be repeating that event next month: hosting a second Jazz Ramble in conjunction with the Ottawa Jazz Festival. The 2018 ramble will run from 10 a.m. on Friday, May 25 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 26.

The store has a large jazz collection, reflecting Thompson's own love of jazz. On a recent visit, he showed off many recent jazz acquisitions on vinyl – from Dave Brubeck to Roland Raahsan Kirk to Sun Ra, with some highly uncommon treasures.

I could see the pleasure in his face as he rifled through the albums. That's because he's a huge collector himself, with 20,000 records in his own collection, accumulated over many years. He describes himself as "obsessed with records."

"For instance, I love original mono Blue Notes. I just love them. It could be almost anything, and they're always engineered by Rudy Von Gelder, and there's just something about them. They just sound so good."

When I sat down with Thompson this week in the basement of the Record Centre, surrounded by thousands of neatly-stacked LPs, I learned more about

  • collecting used vinyl (and the pleasure of the hunt)
  • how Thompson moved from selling on eBay to his own store
  • his alternative to the "condescending, know-it-all, super-cool" record store attitude
  • the role of live music shows in the store
  • how he ensures that all bands who play in the store get paid
  • how he keeps the store safe and family-friendly
  • his Record Centre record label and the jazz records he's so far released on it
  • his show recordings on tape
  • why the present day is a great time for vinyl collectors
  • his plans for Record Store Day, including several special jazz releases

Listen to the full interview in our podcast  Download for offline listening

Previous jazz performances at the Record Centre

  • Sunday, December 14, 2014: The Chocolate Hot Pockets
  • Sunday, January 25, 2015: Mark Ferguson, Roddy Ellias, and Vince Rimbach
  • Sunday, February 8, 2015: The Adam Saikaley Trio
  • Saturday, March 21, 2015: The Sunburst Ensemble
  • Sunday, April 19, 2015: The Cosmos Saxophone Quartet
  • Sunday, June 28, 2015: Steve Bilodeau Trio
  • Sunday, July 5, 2015: Wayne Shorter Tribute Band
  • Friday, September 25, 2015: Mike Rud "Miniatures" CD Release [interview]
  • Sunday, October 25, 2015: The Peter Liu Swing Sextet [review]
  • Sunday, November 1, 2015: Vince Rimbach and the Wellington West Quartet feat. Ed Lister
  • Sunday, November 22, 2015: Mike Tremblay, Mark Ferguson, and Tim Bedner
  • Saturday, February 27, 2016: The Small Packages Duo
  • Saturday, April 23, 2016: An Afternoon of Music with Brian Browne and Peter Woods [review]
  • Sunday, May 15, 2016: Megan Jerome and the Together Ensemble
  • Sunday, May 22, 2016: The Atlantis Jazz Ensemble
  • Sunday, June 5, 2016: The Two Tenors Project
  • Tuesday, June 14, 2016: The 24-Hour Jazz Ramble [article]
  • June, 2016: Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard!
  • Sunday, June 26, 2016: Steve Bilodeau Trio
  • Friday, July 8, 2016: James Falzone and Jesse Stewart
  • Sunday, July 24, 2016: Chamberfest with Raphael Weinroth-Browne and Alice Zawadzki
  • Sunday, July 31, 2016: George Benson Tribute with Mike Rud [interview]
  • Friday, August 5, 2016: The Two Tenors Project, Vol. II
  • Sunday, September 25, 2016: Joe Henderson Tribute
  • Thursday, October 20, 2016: Gabriel Zucker and the Delegation
  • Saturday, October 29, 2016: Steve Berndt and Brian Browne
  • Sunday, October 30, 2016: Tribute to Cole Porter [review]
  • Sunday, October 30, 2016: Rakestar Arkestra
  • Sunday, November 20, 2016: The Crooked Jazz Trio [profile]
  • Sunday, November 27, 2016: Tribute to Thelonious Monk with Jean-Michel Pilc
  • Sunday, December 11, 2016: 45north [profile]
  • Saturday, December 17, 2016: Peter Hum and Chris Maskell
  • Saturday, February 18, 2017: Safe Low Limit
  • Wednesday, February 22, 2017: Jesse Stewart presents Moldover, The Godfather of Controllerism
  • Saturday, February 25, 2017: Bird is the Word: a Tribute to Charlie Parker
  • Saturday, February 25, 2017: Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio
  • Saturday, March 4, 2017: The Stretch Orchestra
  • Sunday, March 5, 2017: Rakestar Arkestra
  • Thursday, March 16, 2017: Brian Browne's 80th with Peter Woods
  • Saturday, April 9, 2017: Safe Low Limit
  • Sunday, June 11, 2017: Wes Montgomery Tribute with Mike Rud [interview]
  • Sunday, June 11, 2017: Rakestar Arkestra
  • Sunday, June 11, 2017: The JazzEd Band and the Petr Cancura/Roddy Ellias Duo
  • Sunday, July 23, 2017: Jesse Stewart
  • Sunday, August 20, 2017: Fox Club
  • Saturday, September 9, 2017: Tim Bedner and Vince Rimbach Duo
  • Saturday, September 23, 2017: John Coltrane Birthday Bash with Marc Decho and the Warp'tet [review]
  • Saturday, October 14, 2017: The Roddy Ellias / Peter Hum Group
  • Sunday, October 15, 2017: The Delegation
  • Saturday, October 21, 2017: Carl Ludwig Hübsch and Pierre-Yves Martel
  • Saturday, November 4, 2017: The Worst Pop Band Ever
  • Saturday, November 25, 2017: Steve Boudreau solo
  • Sunday, November 26, 2017: The Epoch Quintet
  • Friday, December 1, 2017: Marc Decho and the Warp'tet: A Tribute to Jaco Pastorius [interview]
  • Sunday, December 3, 2017: Jesse Stewart and Michael Snow [interview]
  • Sunday, December 3, 2017: Saxsyndrum
  • Saturday, December 23, 2017: Jazz Holiday with Brian Browne and Peter Woods
  • Saturday, January 27, 2018: Steve Boudreau solo
  • Saturday, February 17, 2018: Steve Boudreau solo
  • Saturday, February 24, 2018: Bumpin' Binary
  • Saturday, March 3, 2018: Gypsy Muse
  • Saturday, March 10, 2018: Steve Boudreau solo
  • Saturday, March 10, 2018: Gerri Trimble and Kevin Barrett
  • Saturday, March 24, 2018: Peter Hum / Mike Rud Quartet
  • Saturday, April 7, 2018: Steve Boudreau solo