Ira Sabin 1928-2018

October 3, 2018

Ira Sabin, founder of JazzTimes, passed away on September 12 in Rockville, Maryland. JazzTimes’ twitter account shared the news on the morning of September 13. He was 90 years old and is survived by his wife Irma, his two sons, Glenn and Jeffrey, his daughter Marla, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sabin, who was born on August 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, lived a storied life intertwined with jazz history, both performing as a drummer and going on to own Sabin’s Discount Records in Washington, D.C. He started learning how to play drums at age 12, and played in army bands in Japan, including a six-piece combo, when he entered the armed forces in 1952.

When he returned to the United States four years later, he immersed himself in the music scene in Washington, D.C., working as a drummer, a bandleader, booker and promoter. His trio frequently performed at society events.

Sabin’s Discount Records came into the picture in 1962 when he partnered with what was his brother’s record store at the time. After renaming the shop, Sabin and his crew published the newsletter Sabin’s Happenings, which first doubled in size and became Radio Free Jazz in 1970, and then became a full-fledged magazine in 1980: JazzTimes. Sabin was publisher of the magazine until 1990, when his two sons took over, and owner until 2009. According to JazzTimes’ own obituary for Sabin, Dizzy Gillespie was the publication’s first subscriber.

While Sabin’s Discount Records had become the largest jazz record retailer in the United States, Sabin sold the store in the early 1980s and chose to solely work on the magazine. While he would eventually hire additional staff members, at first he managed all areas of the publication, from writing, editing, and proofreading articles, to selling advertisements and distributing the magazine. It is still published 10 times a year, even without Sabin’s involvement, and despite the fact that he parted ways with JazzTimes nearly ten years ago, the jazz community across the country still reaps the musical wonders of Sabin’s decades of hard work and commitment to jazz.

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