In Store: Jazz Quarter Washes Away the Dust

Record stores are part of what makes San Francisco special. This burg's unmistakable friskiness and its cultural capital emanate from those dusty, creaky, hard-to-find, money-losing, neophyte nerve-racking, cheap, expensive, insanely huge, hilariously small, and often-crowded (at least with stuff) outposts of recorded music. In Store keeps our eyes and search engines a-huntin' for choice music outlets to profile, but if you're curious about a specific one, please send a name or other useful information to

Jazz Quarter

Location: 1267 20th Ave. (between Irving and Lincoln)

Owner: Tom Madden, age 70.

Specialty: Jazz — early, recent, obscure, familiar, rare and commonplace — on vinyl, CD, and tape. Jazz-related posters, trinkets, discographies, photos, newspaper clippings, signage, history, and dust.

Founded: Sometime in the early eighties. (Madden: “Maybe the landlord remembers.”)

Employees: None.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday afternoons, more or less. (Madden: “People say, 'How come you're never here?' And I say, 'How come you're never here?'”)

Total number of people other than Madden who visited the store on a recent
weekday, including us:

Computers: None.

Tagline: “Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.”

About the name: Madden says he named the store after the quarter tones often used in jazz. But, “People used to say I have a quarter of the good jazz records. Then they'd ask me for something, and I'd say, 'I don't carry that quarter.'”

Beginnings: Madden grew up in S.F. and started collecting jazz records in his early teens. He went to S.F. State, worked in record stores and as a process server (where those who could catch pilots between flights made the big bucks) and for a while lived in Canyon, a small, alternative community in the East Bay hills near Montclair. He “tried to be an artist,” but found that his achy fingers didn't provide enough dexterity to play an instrument.

Madden was a regular at jazz shows around the Bay Area. He went to a now legendary club called the Blackhawk at Turk and Hyde, where Monk and Miles recorded live albums. Due to a restaurant license, the venue could allow the underage Madden inside. He also visited joints in sketchy parts of Oakland. He started Jazz Quarter with a partner whom he called “the Johnny Appleseed of record stores.” The partnership “lasted about 90 seconds,” and Madden has been running the place since. [page]

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