Subway Salsa, The Record Mart, and the University of Harry

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God knows we’ve seen a lot of record stores close over the past decade, mostly because of ipods, itunes, and people who just plain don’t feel obligated to pay for music.

But there was a great record store called the Record Mart down in the Times Square subway station that closed because of the renovations that changed Time Square for good.  I used to go there whenever in New York City and usually spent at least a hundred dollars, leaving the store giddy with excitement and with a nearly empty wallet.  It was better than going to the Latin record store at Pico and Vermont in LA and having crack dealers hustle you as you left your car and walked to the store.

Plus, there was Jesse Moskowitz and Harry Sepulveda, the proprieters and total experts in all tropical music, from salsa to Cuban rumba, Puerto Rican plena and bomba, Haitian compas, zouk from Maritinique and Guadeloupe,  and Dominican merengue.    It was a full menu of tasty musical delights—una música muy sabrosa.   Harry was so knowledgeable that he was given the name “University of Harry”.  And, for a California boy like me, it was great to run into some of the top New York city artists who’d hang around and talk.  The Record Mart was their home away from home.

I first became aware of the Record Mart with a 1983 record on the Mart’s Montuno label, Manny Oquendo’s Conjunto Libre’s lp  Sonido, Estilo, y Ritmo.  It is still one of my favorite records.

(A new Record Mart opened a few years ago but I haven’t been there yet, and this new 2 cd collection is about the original store, the subject of this post).  See this NY Daily News article for more info on the new store:

A great new deluxe 2 cd set, lavishly annotated and photographed, has just come out via Spain’s great label Vampi Soul.  It’s called Subway Salsa: The Montuno Records Story.  It features all the top bands put out on the Record Mart’s label:  Manny Oquendo y Libre, Yambu, Totico y Sus Rumberos, all great stuff that has ignited salsa dance floors and propelled millions of bodies and souls into musical ecstasy.

Here’s a great track from the cd by Manny Oquendo and his group Conjunto Libre called “Estoy Como Nunca”

[audio:|titles=2-07 Estoy Como Nunca 1]