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Contents Michael Janisch 15
Zev Feldman 21
Chris Potter 07
Nat King Cole
Binker Golding 03
Christian McBride Interview by: Darrell Craig Harris.
The Diggers Factory
Publisher: Jazz In Europe Media VOF Weversweg 13 7553BH HENGELO (o) The Netherlands ISSN Number: 2666-5093
A True Artist at Heart.
From Circuits to Good Hope. How Worlds Collide. Label Feature: Resonance Records. Will Friedwald speaks about the early years.
Behind the lens: Itâ€™s all about the moment! A new take on vinyl.
The vision, power and hope.
Christian McBride 35 Nat King Cole 29
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of the Publisher. Permission is only deemed valid if approval is in writing. All photo material contained in this magazine has been provided courtsey of the artist and/or their management. The publisher (Jazz In Europe Media), authors, photographers and contributors reserve their rights with regards to copyright of their work.
Editorial: Editor in Chief: Nigel J. Farmer Content Manager: Andrew Read Sub-editor: Pia Sonne-Schmidt
Photography Credits: Dave Stapleton, Chris Drukker, Roy Cox, Zak Shelby-Szyszko, Michael Jackson, R. Andrew Lepley, Grover Massenburg, Nathan Johnson, Monika Jakubowska. Advertising: email@example.com Subscriptions: firstname.lastname@example.org Graphic Design: Andrew Read - DQB Media & Design
Contributors: Darrell Craig Harris, Fiona Ross Jan Veldman, Nigel J. Farmer, Thomas Fletcher, Andrew Read, Erminia Yardley.
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From The Editor
By Nigel J. Farmer
s we move into our second year and present our fifth edition. Your positive feedback and amazing support are truly appreciated. Our response to your requests to launch a subscription service is now a reality. We proudly launch our 1-year print subscription (4 issues) a high-quality, fullcolour glossy publication, all related to the world of jazz! Complemented with digital versions. All at an affordable introductory price. Once again we’ve listened to what you’d like to hear about Jazz In Europe and beyond. Our team has once again been successful in response. Here is a quick overview: We hear from Binker Golding, already a multi-award winner and a rising star on both the UK and European Jazz scene. He chats with Erimina about the current state of Jazz, and the possible implication Brexit may have on artists in general, and much more! Read this in-depth interview with Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist Chris Potter from one of our new younger musician writers. Chris and Thomas talk about the albums ‘Circuits’ and ‘Good Hope’ out on Edition Records and more. Bassist and record label owner Michael Janisch talks with Andrew about his 6th album as a leader – ‘Worlds Collide’ There is a fascinating back story on Michaels move from sports to music and the USA to being a resident in the UK. This editions label feature focuses on the award-winning Los Angeles based Resonance Records. They have a stellar reputation for historical jazz recording releases. Zev Feldman the co-founder explains how this complex process is achieved with passion and determination. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nat King Cole. This iconic African American may not be as wellknown for his early years in jazz. This very informative article is sure to provide
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a much deeper appreciation for this artist and the impact his artistry has had across the globe. It’s not every day you get to spend quality time 1-on-1 with the six-time Grammar winning bassist Christian McBride – Well, we pulled a few strings and arranged for our senior writer Darrell to connect with Christian. They discussed a wide range of topics that you’re sure to find very interesting. This edition’s photo feature ‘Behind the Lens’ – focuses on the work of photographer and designer, Chris Drukker. Taking the plunge and leaving the security of the corporate world, Chris pursued his passion and his photo spread demonstrates his choices. I hunt down and investigate a new take on vinyl production from a company named ‘The Diggers Factory’ based in Paris, France. Offering a solution to the Indie artist looking to self-release. The article also explores historical and current industry related statistics to help you gain a deeper insight. Plus give you an appreciation of the passion that ‘The Diggers Factory’ is creating for a growing community of artists and fans. The lovely vocal artist, educator, songwriter, producer – Lori Williams spends quality time talking with Fiona. This interview covers many topics, including the power and importance of words in songwriting, focusing on vision and hope. Her latest album ‘Full Circle’ truly exemplifies this! It feels like a cliché, yet it remains steadfastly true within me – my love and thanks to all the team and the artist who so readily agreed to help make this 5th edition a reality. - Nigel J.
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Binker Golding A True Artist at Heart.
Text by: Erminia Yardley | Photos by: Carl Hyde
When I was first asked to write a feature on saxophonist Binker Golding, I literally jumped at the chance. I have total respect for this talented musician who is also a very modest man, indeed! When you read the following interview, you will realise how versatile he is, but also humorous and a true artist at heart.
rminia Yardley: We should start by introducing you to all the Jazz in Europe readers. Can you tell us how it all started for you?
Binker Golding: I’m Binker Golding, born 1985 in North London. I have one older sister and I’m of Caribbean and English descent. I started playing the saxophone at the age of eight after begging for guitar lessons (by the way, I never got them). I studied classical saxophone, theory and composition for the first ten years of my musical education. I started attempting to improvise at about twelve or thirteen. By the age of fifteen, I decided to become a professional musician. To this day, that particular decision was probably the biggest I’ve ever made and it’s the only one I didn’t hesitate on and, what’s more, it’s the only one I think I got right. EY: Do you play any other instruments? BG: My sister taught me some piano prior to learning saxophone. I don’t play any other instruments to performance standard. I can compose at a piano and have enough technique to know what I’m doing, but that’s it. EY: Let’s talk about all the nominations and prizes you have won so far. It is a remarkable journey. I am wondering: how did it all feel at the time? BG: I was very grateful and happy with the awards. I’m not someone who plays it down and says “It didn’t mean anything, or I wasn’t affected.” If anything, I realised it was a way to reach a broader audience. I was glad to be recognised even if I felt my best work was yet to come. EY: I am one of those people that always have music playing when I write. How do you get your concentration and your inspiration when composing and writing your music?
BG: When I’m aiming to compose, I make sure I listen to nothing. I try and listen to my own mind as much as possible all the time. I don’t listen to tracks on headphones, and I’ll go through long periods of listening to nothing at home. I still listen to music for enjoyment but never for inspiration. I feel I have to rely on my own mind for that otherwise it will lack in originality. My concentration these days is mostly maintained by not using my computer or phone too much. I try to read instead if I need something to do. I find social media and the internet in general too schizophrenic, especially Instagram. They’re not good for an artist’s mind. EY: Talking about music on a larger scale, what is your view on the European scene at this moment in time? BG: I know a little about it, but not a great deal. I know the work of my friends and contemporaries quite well. Some work I like, some I don’t. Overall I think the European scene for Jazz, especially the musicians working in London is positive and effective. I admire the honesty of the music, but currently, I think there could be a few more chord changes and a bit more melodic development. Although that opinion could be wrong in the broader sense, I’m not sure. EY: How do you think Brexit will affect musicians and artists in general? Or are you hoping for a sudden U-turn?... BG; I can’t see a single positive for Brexit unless you’re a millionaire trying to hide your assets in another country. I think anyone who still thinks it’s a good idea and who isn’t in that category is certifiably ridiculous. Ridiculous being short-hand for either, ignorant, racist, imperialist or phenomenally shortsighted. Musicians will not benefit in any way. I’m currently learning German to broaden the scope of my opportunities, meanwhile, 49% of the U.K. want
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to kill this off because they think the U.K. is still a superpower and “we” still own Rhodesia! EY: How has London played a part in your growth as a composer and musician? BG: I think overall it’s made me tougher than I would’ve been. It’s a tough place with a do or die attitude. Londoners have a lot of drive and ambition. I see myself as very much a child of my time and environment. I think it’s made a lot of my music tough and it’s made me perhaps more productive and competitive than I would’ve been. Those things also have their price, but it’s the world I’m used to. I’d rather be productive and burn out at 50 than sit on my arse and have done nothing by 100. London’s played a part in that. EY: The world of jazz is vast and multi-layered, what or who has been the catalyst for the person you are today?
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BG: My first saxophone teacher Adrienne Wilson who taught me everything I needed to know to teach myself. The musicians around me that I work with regularly, Moses Boyd, Elliot Galvin. Also my quartet, Zara McFarlane, Gary Crosby and many others. They’ve all played big parts in making me who I am. EY: What do you find most rewarding in your job? BG: The thing I find most rewarding is when someone is moved by an album or performance. When I can, I aim for people to be profoundly moved, hopefully to tears if possible. Tears of sorrow or tears of joy, but the important thing are tears. The only reward in this job is profoundly moving another human being. It starts and ends there for me. There are no other rewards in art. EY: Let’s delve into your amazing discography, tell the readers who have been the most significant work for you and why?
Binker Golding BG: I think, “Journey to the Mountain of Forever” was significant for me because it was so ambitious. I feel we only achieved about 80% of our artistic goal with that record, but it proved to me we could bring ambitious ideas to fruition with hard work even if they were incomplete in the end. Saying that, I think “Alive in the east?” is a much better album overall. It’s a very pure version of this whole “New London jazz” thing long before anyone even knew what it was. I really like “Ex Nihilo”. It’s probably the one I enjoy most when I hear it played. In regards to the upcoming album “Abstractions of reality past & incredible feathers”, I don’t know how I feel about it yet. I haven’t lived with it long enough, but I think compositionally I got it right except for 16 bars on one of the tracks. EY: And talking about your albums, it is only fair to discuss your relationship with the mighty Gearbox Records. Can you highlight some time-line points? BG: Binker & Moses started working with them about 5 years ago or so. The first release we did for them was “Dem ones.” I think we were the only living artists on the label at the time. I’ve released all of my records but one with them (Ex Nihilo is on Byrdout.). I have a great relationship with them, and I think they trust me artistically which is very important to me. EY: The release of your new album, “Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers” (Gearbox), in September this year, is yet another major step up in your journey. Tell us about how the album was conceived. BG: It’s an album that had to happen for me, that’s why I made it. It wasn’t because I felt I needed a debut as just me, but because I genuinely had to get that music and those thoughts out of myself. It’s closer to being an exorcism than an album. All the songs are about people I’ve known or places I’ve been. Good & bad memories I still have and things I’ve always
wanted to say to people I’ve loved but never did for whatever reason. Some I’m out of touch with now and haven’t seen for years. Some are dead. For me, it was poignant without being sentimental. Although I’m a big believer in sentimentality. EY: What do you prefer: studio recording or touring? BG: I have a love & hate relationship with both. I love touring because of the audience reactions and I love meeting audience members after shows. I love hearing their responses and communicating with them. Communication is all I want. However, I hate the regime of touring; very early lobby calls in hotels and loads of travel and stress. The studio is equally exhausting but I love what comes out of it. I love having an idea and making it into a real living, breathing thing that other people can experience. If I could no longer do that there’d be no point in living for me I think. Dramatic, but true. EY: Which European country would you say, has been more “in tune” with your art so far? BG: Possibly France or Austria. It’s very hard to say. I’ve only played one show ever in Hungary, but that crowd was really with us to the end. EY: Who is your hero or heroine and why? BG: I’ve got many. There’s literally a really long list I could give you but let’s go with J.S Bach. His work ethic and output combined with a level of quality have never been matched before or since. Then when you take into account that he had 21 children that survived and had to raise them by himself after his wife died and did everything he did by candlelight, it’s absolutely astonishing. EY: Who would you have at your ideal dinner party? BG: Stanley Kubrick, Carl Jung, Arthur Schopenhauer, Miles Davis, Jenna Jameson, Slash, Joan of Arc, Luis Buñuel. EY: And lastly, how does Binker Golding relax? BG: I watch a film every now and then. Usually a 1940s or 50s film noir style. I’m not homosexual but I like homosexual bars. They generally play better music, and the people are nicer. I also like a good blue-collar sports bar. Usually the ones in America where there are 3 TV screens, one playing an ice hockey game, one with basketball & one with baseball.
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From Circuits to Good Hope.
Chris Potter Text by: Thomas Fletcher | Photos by Dave Stapleton
Born in Chicago; Chris Potter has emerged as one of the leading jazz saxophonists to date. After moving to New York to attend college, Chris became a frequent face on the local jazz scene and from 1989, played with the iconic Red Rodney at just 18 years old. Since then, Chris has made himself known as an established composer and arranger. Saxophone virtuoso Dave Liebman described him as, “one of the best musicians around.” Chris has also won numerous awards and honours such as Tenor Saxophonist of the Year 2013 and 2019 by the Jazz Journalists Association and also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Award, featuring on Joanne Brackeen’s album, Pink Elephant Magic.
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his year Chris released his most recent album titled ‘Circuits’, which came out in February on Edition Records. I had the pleasure of spending some time talking with Chris about his latest album and catching up on his other projects. During his career, Chris has played in a variety of settings from small group work to working alongside a large orchestra, and ‘Circuits’ represents what Chris has wanted to produce for a long time with exceptional appearances from Eric Harland, James Francies and Linley Marthe. The idea behind the album name and cover was simple. Chris named his first tune ‘Circuits’ and then realised that it would be a good name for the overall project, taking this word and using it in different connotations. As Chris described, “it was a bit tongue in cheek about it being electric.” The central theme was like a circuit board but also the interpretation of the word itself as an energy connection that goes full circle; this was the meaning that Chris liked. The album focuses on using electronics and integrating them with the saxophone, such as a harmoniser and digital delay. Chris then spoke about how there was a partial influence from Eddie Harris’ album ‘Silver Cycles’ in the creation of ‘Circuits’.
there is something about the idea of sampling and the sounds, sonically, that these avenues lead to because of the time that we are in. I have that feeling when I’m playing ‘Circuits’.” I asked Chris about the chemistry between the musicians and how vital it is for the success of any album, such as ‘Circuits’. Chris explained the importance of having a strong voice but also using that voice in conjunction with other people. Music challenges everything that you do, the craft of being able to play an instrument well, a familiarity of ways to approach the music so you’re not repeating yourself all the time and looking at it from a multitude of creative angles. The human interaction is the most special aspect of jazz and how everyone reacts with their different personalities. When speaking about the album and the approach to it, Chris said, “it’s important when you’re creating an album or putting together a set of music to have enough common language in a way that it hangs together, but also enough variety that it is like a journey that the listener goes along and does not stay in one sonic area.”
“it was a bit tongue in cheek about it being electric.”
Chris knew that he wanted to create a project that was funk orientated as well as using electronics. In the summer of 2017, he called on his friend Eric Harland who plays the drums on the album and Eric suggested that he should collaborate with James Francies. After playing together for a few weeks on tour in Europe, Chris decided to record the material that he performed with James and Eric. We then spoke about how Linley the bass player came to join the group. Chris knew of Linley from a few years back, but Eric had played with him more recently. During the album recording, Linley happened to be in the States so Chris made sure he would feature on the album. I then went on to ask Chris about how important it is for musicians to incorporate the genres of today in their music. In an earlier interview, Chris said that ‘Circuits’ features a variety of styles such as Hip-Hop and Electronica. Chris replied, “I think musicians should be free to use whatever they want to use, I have more than one project that I’m interested in doing. I enjoy many different settings, my main background is much more straight-ahead; however,
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This is Chris’ first album on Edition Records, a UK based record company. Chris had made the recording but did not have a label to release it on nor know how to go about it. Chris’s manager, Louise Holland, had somehow come into contact with Dave Stapleton, one of the co-founders of Edition Records and thought Chris had some great ideas and was fully behind the album. A chance was thus taken and much to the delight of Chris, the results were thoroughly successful. The conversation then took a rather interesting turn as we debated the significance of record companies and their role in the modern era. Chris argued there are always going to be people that need to get the music out there, in order for the music to reach a high standard but there’s too much pressure on musicians to be efficient using their social media and other necessities which he believes takes away from making the music great. Without additional people on the outside to help you out, Chris did not see how musicians could do it all by themselves. As far as studios, Chris explained that they are needed, a place where a group can play at the same time; that’s what most people cannot do at home. There will always be a need for recording space and service. As I was familiar with Chris’ previous projects, I
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The Crosscurrents Trio, From Left to Right: Chris Potter, Zalir Hussain and Dave Holland
knew that this album was far different in terms of composition. I asked him about his thoughts on this topic and how he approaches composing music. “It was fairly sketchy, I didn’t know I wanted it to be a recording, I wanted to have some material to work from. In general, my approach to writing is whatever is going to work. I would lock myself in a room and just get to work. You look at things from different angles and make changes. A lot of the time when you bring the music into the composition, that’s when you realise what it really needs and how to use the material. The priority is then to extend the composition with the band, that’s the next chapter in the composition process.”
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As our conversation about ‘Circuits’ came to a close I was interested to hear a little more from Chris about his partnership with Zakir Hussain and Dave Holland in the group, Crosscurrents Trio. The trio has been a recent success and will be releasing an album in early October entitled ‘Good Hope’. The group will also be touring throughout Europe after its release. Chris had been a fan of Zakir for many years but never expected to share a stage with him. He then went on to explain how Zakir has it all and is a complete master of the tabla. Having an amazing groove as well as living in the United States listening to jazz and other kinds of music. His approach to music was also something that Chris admired, a very open perspective which
Chris Potter firstly I thought of it as a South African groove thinking of the Cape of Good Hope, so I guess that goes to show how all these rhythmic worlds live alongside each other. You could think of it as a South African groove, an Indian groove, you could think of it as a jazz perspective, it’s all just human rhythm at the end of the day.” Chris continued his talk by explaining the similarities between Indian Classical music and Western Jazz, “the big thing is the concept of improvisation, which is not really in Western classical music anymore but is a huge part of the Indian Classical tradition. There are all these signals that are being given by an Indian Classical musician in the middle of improvisation that are cues to go to this section or another which I suppose is similar in jazz to a shout chorus.” I noticed how Chris seems to play alongside musicians who are both a generation below and above him, an example being James Francies from ‘Circuits’ who is a lot younger but also Dave and Zakir from the Crosscurrents Trio who are far more experienced in the music industry. I found it fascinating how Chris seemed to fit right in with any generation and perform to the highest level with anyone that he played with. “This is the great thing about music too, it obviously encompasses people from different cultures, but also men, women and age. It’s a place where there really can be a meeting, where all these groups have had a history of being antagonistic. We can use music in a way to forge a new creative path. It’s exciting for me now to be at an age where I’m kind of in the middle now playing with older musicians such as Dave and Zakir but also being inspired by musicians like James who’s much younger. It’s great to meet these young musicians as it feels like there’s somewhere for the music to go, people like James and Marcus Gilmore.”
he thought was very unusual bearing in mind his classical training and background, but also, he knows how to loosen up, listen and react. The group originally came together from a project that Zakir had formed for a collection of concerts at the San Francisco Jazz Center. He asked Chris and Dave to be a part of it as well as a number of talented Indian musicians. The original group was far larger with the majority being Indian virtuosos however they were all familiar with the jazz language. I asked Chris whether ‘Good Hope’ celebrates Indian Classical music and Western Jazz together and he replied saying, “I wrote it well before I met Zakir,
Before wrapping up our chat, I thought I’d ask Chris a few questions about himself growing up and his career as a successful saxophonist. He had found the saxophone through his parents’ record collection initially, although it wasn’t too large, the variety was vast! The music ranged from Mozart and Beethoven to Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. The sound of Paul Desmond featuring on Brubeck’s ‘Time Out’ had a huge impression on Chris. There were also musicians that he saw that inspired him, they would play at his elementary school and eventually, at the age of ten, Chris asked his parents if he could take up lessons with the very teacher that visited his school. Having had the opportunity to perform with musicians such as Red Rodney, Paul Motian, Steve Swallow, Dave Holland, John Scofield, Herbie Hancock, McCoy
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Chris Potter Tyner and Pat Metheny, Chris says that he has been extremely fortunate to learn and be inspired by a generation of world-class performers. Chris added, “To get to know them and to understand how they see themselves and how they came up in music and what the scene was like when they started, it’s such a rich history that music has and such a rich culture behind it and the ultimate meaning of why it’s important is really kind of about this musical community that exists. It’s just a bunch of people that want to make something beautiful but may or may not sell a tonne, but they believe in it and it’s important, it reflects everything about how they think of life.” Predominantly recognised as a jazz saxophonist Chris has also worked in many other scenes not necessarily focused around jazz so I was curious to learn what he listens to, whether it be just jazz or a variety of styles. Chris replied, “I’m a big fan of music, I like music and the phenomenon of music. I like the way different people from different times and cultures have found their own way of putting together sounds that reflect what they were into. Besides just the music itself being so beautiful, it’s a window into what they were thinking. For example, what Mozart was thinking and what it felt like at the time when he was alive. There’s such a huge world of music that you can enjoy and learn from, as a musician too, I think of it as stealing. Something that I heard in a Ligeti
piece might just come in handy in the middle of some improvisation. So the bigger your musical world and perspective is, the more avenues you can go down because jazz is a completely open book as far as I’m concerned, there’s not a right or wrong except what sound is needed at the time and I like that the term ‘jazz’ can mean anything. It was such a lovely experience chatting with Chris Potter talking about projects past and present as well as his background. As I look back on our conversation, there were many subjects discussed. We spoke about the importance of record companies as well as studios, how musicians should encapsulate the music of today and even a mini-lesson in the art of composition. Chris will be touring with the Crosscurrents Trio later in the year throughout Europe including Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the UK. For more information on tour dates please visit their website. Their album ‘Good Hope’ will be released on 11 October 2019 on Edition Records. Chris Potter’s ‘Circuits’ is now available on Edition Records. More information on Chris Potter can be found on his website.
Chris Potter Circuits
Crosscurrents trio Good Hope
Catalogue Number: EDN1123
Catalogue Number: EDN1136
Edition Records 14. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
M COVER STORY
Michael Janisch How Worlds Collide.
Text by: Andrew Read | Photos by: Carl Hyde, Nathan Johnson & Monika Jakubowska
Bassist Michael Janisch is one of those unstoppable musicians that seems to thrive on having his fingers firmly planted in a multitude of pies. As a U.S. expat living in London, Michael has built a Trans-Atlantic career as a sideman, bandleader, producer and label owner that would be enough to cause even the most die-hard workaholic’s head to spin. Shortly after the release of his 6th album as a leader, titled “Worlds Collide”, Jazz In Europe caught up with him to find out more.
riginally from the Midwest of the United States, Janisch started his journey in music at a young age playing the piano, and by the age of ten, he had gravitated to the bass guitar. His love of music carried through to his Junior High School years however in Senior High his love of sports and specifically American Football and Track and Field gradually became his main focus. Michael explained “The junior high I attended had a great music program but the senior high didn’t push me as much. Looking back, I think if I had the right coaching, I probably would have stayed with music. On the other hand, around that time my younger brother had passed away in a horrific farming accident, and in retrospect, I think the grief I dealt with during this extremely difficult time as a teenager was for me best served by releasing aggression. So I started to focus more and more on sport and ended up being recruited on a sports scholarship to attend Minnesota State University. By the time I was eighteen I had stopped playing bass completely.”
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Michael recalled that approximately halfway through his college career, an accident involving a 320-pound linesman connecting full speed with his hamstring put paid to any chance of a professional sports career. He went on to say “I remember still being on crutches when I had my yearly assessment with the coach and I can remember him saying, well Michael, even though you’re great for the team and you are doing well, we’re pulling your Scholarship! I remember my eyes watered up and I felt like my entire world was falling down on me. I remember a day or two later I was walking down the street feeling sorry for myself when I heard a drummer practising in the Performing Arts building. I just walked in, sat down and started watching him. I was all decked out in football gear, not the pads but the hoodie and the guy just looked at me thinking, why is this jock with crutches looking at me? He probably thought I was going to beat him up. I just said to him, “I used to play bass and was digging’ what you were playing”. We started talking and after a while, he said, hey man, next
Photo Â© Carl Hyde
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From Left to Right: Clarence Penn, Michael Janisch, Rez Abbasi, John O’Gallagher and Jason Palmer. Photo © Nathan Johnson
time why don’t you bring your bass. Right at that moment, a light went on in my head and I thought - Oh my God, of course, I can still play bass. Literally, at that moment my passion for sports switched back to music.”
Michael spent a year finishing up his history degree and moved back to Wisconsin to enrol in the music department at the La Crosse University. He spent most of his time woodshedding in an attic apartment. “I just went crazy, I hardly socialised, there were days when I logged 16 hours of practice.” After graduating he packed his bags and headed to Boston
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on a full scholarship to study at Berklee. “I enjoyed my time at Berklee and especially the people I met, we were all in the same boat and there was a lot of amazing things going on. The one thing you can say about Berklee is that it was a great stomping ground to jam all the time and be immersed in that cacophony of young talent. I went from being a big fish in a small pond to being a very small fish in a large pond. It was a great wake-up call and very inspiring.”
“The one thing you can say about Berklee is that it was a great stomping ground to jam all the time ...”
After graduating from Berklee Michael moved to New York but soon after, with some Berklee friends, he
Michael Janisch getting back, the band was great but there were about 14 people in the room. It was bitterly cold outside and to be honest, I just wasn’t feeling it. After about a month Sarah had to go back to London and I thought, why not! I packed my stuff and headed over with the plan of spending a year checking out the scene in London and travelling around Europe.” As things go, this didn’t pan out as expected and instead of travelling Europe, after just a few weeks in London Michael was asked to play bass on a large tour with a young pop/jazz artist called Chantz Powell. Michael explained that he was originally from New Orleans and had just been picked up by Universal. This provided Michael with the opportunity to tour the UK in style until artistic differences between the producers and management led to Chantz being dropped from the label. In this period Michael was able to build his network and after two years in the UK, he was doing close on 250 dates per year. Michael continued to maintain a frantic schedule of gigging as a sideman for the following few years until in 2010 he decided the time was right to release his first recording as a leader.
decided to take a “gap year” out by securing a job on a cruise ship where he spent the next seven months cruising the Caribbean and playing jazz standards in the ship’s atrium. “It was very well paid and we spent the days on the beach and the evenings playing standards, it was an amazing experience, especially at that age. It was a perfect way to relax after the intensity of Berklee and before making the full time move to NYC. The point for mentioning all this is that I met my (now) wife, who was managing the spa on the ship. After both our contracts had finished we went back to New York however, the shock of being back in the middle of a New York winter after spending time in the Caribbean really got to me. I remember going to a gig at Fat Cats just a few days after
This event turned out to be a major milestone in Michael’s career. The album titled “Purpose Built” not only established him as a bandleader but also provided him with the impetus to found his label Whirlwind Recordings. I asked Michael why he decided to selfrelease and on top of this to also start the label? “Well, when I had the album mastered and was ready to go I started shopping around to some of the labels. The deals on offer were shocking, to say the least. Being the sort of impulsive guy that I am, I went to an accountant, registered a limited Company and Whirlwind Recordings was born.” It didn’t take long for Michael to expand the catalogue, largely in these early days with recordings from his friends and colleagues, however now, almost ten years on, the label boasts an impressive catalogue with over 130 releases from many of the jazz worlds top artists. Michael explained “when we first started the catalogue grew slowly, however as time went on and we started to become known as a serious label the catalogue just exploded. It’s been quite a ride and in January next year we celebrate 10 years.” With the release of Michael’s 6th album as a leader (or co-leader) titled “Worlds Collide” this autumn, Michael has diverged somewhat stylistically from his last release titled “Paradigm Shift” and released in 2015. I asked Michael about this and why there was a gap of almost five years between releases. “Well, I’m still very busy doing different projects either as a sideman or co-leader and this means there is probably more time between
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THE MICHAEL JANISCH BAND From Left to Right: Rick Simpson, George Crowley, Michael Janisch, Shaney Forbes, Nathaniel Facey.
solo releases than there should be. In the time between records, I feel like I’m still developing so it makes sense that different influences are going to creep into the compositions. I’m never complacent, I’m playing all the time and also producing a great deal for the label so I think it’s sort of unconscious, I don’t consciously go – OK the next album has to be different, it’s more of a natural progression of my development as a musician and composer.” The majority of ‘Worlds Collide” was recorded toward the end of 2017 in Abbey Road studios in London with an additional session in early 2019 and features a line-up of hand-selected players from both the USA and the UK. The interesting thing is that Michael has now put together a regular band of UK based players, different to those on the album, to tour the material. When I asked Michael about his thoughts behind this strategy he replied “Having
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done the last few albums with musicians who all have their own projects and are so busy, I wanted to have a band that would function as a band. With the other projects I’ve done, it was almost impossible to organise tours let alone trying to organise a rehearsal. I felt stuck! I did most of the recordings back in 2017 and at that time I had the resources to fly the guys in, but I was very clear, right from the start, this would be a one-off recording. In a way, it was sort of a project recording and I tended to see it as a farewell to the all-star recordings I had done in the past.” Once the album was in the can Michael started thinking about his touring ensemble. “I spent close to a year thinking about this, I wanted to have players who were able to commit to the project and I think with the line-up as it is we’re in great shape. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all develops as a band.”
I asked Michael what his vision was for the new band moving forward. He explained “I’m looking forward working with a stable line-up and developing it as a band. I know it’s a bit of a risk as far as booking gigs go, often the festivals look at booking bands either with all-star line-ups or bands that have well-known sidemen when the leaders’ profile is not that well known. To be honest I’m not that worried about it. I know for sure that we’ll be doing a new album with this band in the near future and we already have some
live shows on the books. I’m also working on some dates in the USA and hope to be able to announce these soon. We’ll certainly be doing the rounds here in the UK and Europe later this year and into 2020.” During our conversation we also spoke a great deal about the label and with Whirlwind’s 10th anniversary coming up in 2020, I can say without doubt there is a lot planned. Not wanting to let the proverbial “cat out of the bag” you can read about this in our up-coming label feature on Whirlwind Recordings in the “Winter” edition of this publication. With all this said, I’m sure we will be hearing a great deal more from Michael Janisch in the coming year.
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Photo HydeJakubowska Photo©©Carl Monika
Michaels new touring band consists of Nathaniel Facey on alto saxophone, George Crowley on tenor saxophone, Rick Simpson on piano/keys, and Shane Forbes on drums. The band made it’s première late last month with a series of dates in Scotland, Birmingham with the official launch of the “Worlds Collide” album at the Kings Place in London.
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Text by: Andrew Read | Photos by: Zak Shelby-Szyszko & Michael Jackson
Since its foundation in 2008, award-winning Los Angeles based label Resonance Records has carved out a stellar reputation for its historical releases. Releases by artists such as Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, Jaco Pastorious and Eric Dolphy to name just a small selection, have not only garnered the label a great deal of respect within the industry, the recordings themselves have brought important material (the majority not previously released) to jazz fans around the globe. On the eve of perhaps their most ambitious project to date, “Nat King Cole: Hittin’ the Ramp”, I had the pleasure to speak with Resonance co-founder Zev Feldman to talk about the label and in particular the Nat King Cole project.
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ndrew Read: Hi Zev, Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Before we get into speaking about the Nat King Cole project, I’d like to speak a bit about Resonance Records in general. Can you tell us about how the label came into existence?
“Where the Sunshine Is Expensive”. We also released the 3rd Resonance album by UK vocalist Polly Gibbons, “All I Can Do” and two Record Store Day releases in April – Bill Evans “Evans in England” and Wes Montgomery “Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings”.
Zev Feldman: George Klabin started the label in 2008 as a division of his non-profit foundation called Rising Jazz Stars. As a side note, Resonance celebrated its 10th-anniversary last year. The label came into being from the vision and generosity of George, who began his career as a recording engineer in New York City back in the 1960s.
I’m proud to say that we also secured another Grammy nomination with the 2018 release by clarinet icon Eddie Daniels with “Heart of Brazil: A Tribute to Egberto Gismonti”.
Originally the focus was on helping living artists who were having a difficult time getting their music released and distributed. George’s mission was to discover the rising jazz stars of tomorrow. Over the last 10 years, it’s been an extraordinary journey for the label, especially as we’ve expanded and grown in the archival and historical releases arena. Now our mission is also to preserve these important jazz recordings, while still focusing on new talent as well. In fact, 2019 has been a great representation of what we do best – we began the year with the CD edition of wildly acclaimed Eric Dolphy “Musical Prophet”, followed by the Resonance debut by the trombone and vocal powerhouse Aubrey Logan,
AR: I think one of the most impressive things about Resonance releases is the quality of the production, the packaging and the addition of extensive linernotes, photo material and interviews. Do you find producing such a high-quality physical product alters the ratio of physical sales to streaming? ZF: Resonance is relatively new to the streaming world – in fact, just this summer we released a series of compilations designed by the acclaimed Japanese artist Takao Fujioka and for the first time made almost our entire back catalogue available for streaming – so it’s hard to measure what impact that streaming will have on our physical sales at this point. But make no mistake about it, and anyone who follows our label knows that we still really care an awful lot about the physical product, and I believe that opens us up for an endless amount of creative curation to build these wonderful packages with rare photos, original essays, artist interviews and ephemera. I consider what we do to be investigative journalism. We go in-depth to tell the story of how these projects came to be and incorporate all the contributing voices who offer many interesting insights. AR: As you are aware, vinyl has experienced a massive comeback over the last few years and Resonance can be seen as one of the early adopters of this resurgence. What do you think were the driving factors in this resurgence and was vinyl a strategic choice for the label in the early stages of the revival? ZF: I think it’s really simple. As much as people want to be able to listen to music anytime anywhere, they
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also still have a strong desire to hold something beautiful and informative in their hands, and what better feeling is there as a music lover than to hold a record in their hands? When we put out our first LP editions in 2011 and 2012, we knew there would be a small but passionate group of jazz fans who would respond enthusiastically. Vinyl resonates with a certain segment of the audience, not everyone, but a significant part. I don’t think vinyl works for every release we put out but it does especially well on our historical projects. We’ve found a soft spot in that area with our fans. We’re also fortunate to have the support of our friends at Record Store Day. It costs a tremendous amount of money to create vinyl editions and Record Store Day has provided a reliable path to guarantee our projects will sell out quickly. It’s really important that we’re able to recoup those expenses quickly so that we can continue to put out other projects. Making our vinyl projects something collectable that fans can get wrapped up in and enjoy the legacies of these artists is something really special. Ironically, our upcoming 10 LP Nat King Cole release will not be a Record Store Day release, which will be a bit of an experiment for us, but I’ll get into that later.
for everyone on all sides and treat each project with the utmost respect. We’ve found it helpful to involve estates in the process when appropriate and utilise them for interviews, family photos, ephemera and whatever else will help enhance the experience, and of course crediting them in the package if they’ve assisted us with the production. AR: The label has a stellar reputation for producing top-quality historical releases. Are there any particular projects that stand out for you? ZF: All of the releases are like my children in many ways and each one has special meaning. I learn so much and gain a deeper appreciation of the musicians with each release. On a personal level, the ones that stand out to me the most are Larry Young “In Paris”, Wes Montgomery “Echoes of Indiana Avenue”, Bill Evans “Some Other Time” and Shirley Horn “Live at the 4 Queens”. These are all really great examples of very personal projects that I’m proud to be a part of. When it’s an artist you really appreciate and are a huge fan, you go the distance to make it as great as possible.
“I think one of the most common challenges in working with artist’s estates is getting everyone to agree on the terms and building trust in the relationship.”
AR: One of the great things about Resonance releases is that the label fully respects the rights of the musicians and estates involved. Having personally been involved in producing several historical releases, I know that working with an artist estate can sometimes be a challenge. What are the most common obstacles you come across when dealing with an estate? ZF: I think one of the most common challenges in working with artist’s estates is getting everyone to agree on the terms and building trust in the relationship. It’s asking for a leap of faith for these estate representatives to work with someone they don’t know. It can be very intimidating for a family member to deal with, especially if they don’t have a music industry background. Trying to understand the music business when it’s not their thing is not easy. There’s a great deal of concern and trepidation, not necessarily in a bad way, but there’s just a lot of considerations to process and it can be overwhelming. We try to do the best we can to make great deals
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AR: Over the years Resonance has produced many amazing historical releases yet none so expansive as the Nat King Cole project “Hittin’ the Ramp.” Can you tell us about this project, what it encompasses and its significance? ZF: Nat King Cole “Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)” is a very important release for Resonance and the Nat King Cole family. It’s the firstever comprehensive collection of recordings made before he arrived at Capitol Records. It’s especially important from a historical perspective because it shines a spotlight on Nat’s incredible piano playing, which doesn’t get called out as often as it should. He’s truly one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, right alongside the likes of Earl “Fatha” Hines and Art Tatum. Our project documents that key period before he became a world-renowned superstar. It’s a 7 CD and limited-edition 10 LP 180-gram boxed set that includes an assortment of never-before-issued recordings, some of them seeing their first-ever commercial releases, with rarities culled from transcription discs and private collector copies. There are over 180 meticulously restored tracks, 8 and a half hours of music, with an extensive 56-page booklet including
Zev Feldman rare photographs, essays by acclaimed author and co-producer on the project Will Friedwald. Guitarist Nick Rossi writes an essay about Oscar Moore. There are also interviews and testimonies from Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, John Pizzarelli, Freddy Cole and many others. AR: What was the origin of the project and how did it come about? ZF: In March of 2018, I was contacted by author Will Friedwald (See previous article - ed), who was working on a Nat King Cole book called “Straighten Up and Fly Right!” (forthcoming on Oxford University Press) and he began explaining this project to me as a potential endeavour we could work on together. We’ve worked together in the past, with Will writing liner notes on other projects. I was interested and excited by what he was telling me, as I’ve felt that Nat
has never been really recognised as the great pianist he was. The focus has always been on his vocals. So I felt this was an opportunity to right another wrong for the annals of jazz history. AR: You worked closely with the Nat King Cole estate on the project. What role did the estate play in the production? ZF: The Nat King Cole Estate gave us the blessing and encouragement to release this project, led by Seth Berg of South Bay Entertainment, who has had a long-standing relationship with the Cole family. I’ve gotten to know Seth over the past couple of years and this project came about at just the perfect time. AR: The project has been put together in collaboration with an amazing team of experts. Can you tell us a little about the rest of the team behind the project?
Zev Feldman with Evan Evans
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ZF: The team is made up of myself, the Resonance copresident and founder George Klabin, Seth Berg and a trio of true Nat King Cole experts and aficionados — author Will Friedwald, engineer Matt Lutthans and researcher/discographer Jordan Taylor. I’ve talked a bit about everyone already except Matt and Jordan. Matt has worked in music recording in Seattle since 1988 and now works at Cohearent Audio in North Hills, CA, and The Mastering Lab in Salina, KS. He’s a huge fan of Nat King Cole and was instrumental in obtaining and restoring all the rare material that’s found in our collection. Jordan is also a huge Nat King Cole fan, and has done extensive research and compiled discographies for other Nat King Cole projects on other labels. They are the A-team when it comes to everything Nat King Cole! There are a number of other important folks who were involved as well, which my co-producer and engineer Matt Lutthans will get into when we speak about the technical aspect of the project. AR: With 2019 being the centenary of Nat’s birth, was
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releasing this project to coincide with this a conscious decision? ZF: Absolutely. The 100th anniversary of Nat King Cole’s birth is a major cultural event for the whole world and everyone on the team thought this would be a great time to do this particular project. By the way, next year is the 90th anniversary of the birth of Bill Evans. Stay tuned for more info! AR: Thanks Zev for taking the time to speak to me about this. I appreciate it greatly. Resonance Records will release Nat King Cole “Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)” on the 1st of November 2019. The set will be available as a Deluxe 7-CD/10-LP Package and includes an extensive booklet with interviews and statements by Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Freddy Cole and Others! More information can be found at the Resonance Records website: www.resonancerecords.org.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nat King Cole, easily one of America’s most iconic African American musicians of his time. While largely known for his popular hits in the 1950s including “Too Young”, “Mona Lisa” and of course the Irving Gordon classic “Unforgettable” many fans are unaware of his early work and the impact his artistry had on a generation of jazz musicians.
Nat King Cole
Will Friedwald speaks about the early years & legacy of Nat King Cole. Text by: Jan Veldman Photos supplied courtesy of Resonance Records
Cole himself spoke rarely, if at all, about his early career yet the body of work he created prior to moving to Capitol Records in 1943 is extensive and some would say best represents his legacy as a jazz musician. Unfortunately, this part of Nat King Cole’s discography has remained largely undocumented and what has been released is incomplete and often issued on sub-standard productions.
With the coming release on Resonance Records (See our article with Zev Feldman - Ed) of Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (19361943) this is about to change. This seven CD (ten LP) set presents the entire recordings made by Nat King Cole prior to his move to Capitol in one boxed set, all fully remastered and presented in the highest quality packaging we have come to expect from Resonance releases.
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Encompassing close to 200 tracks, the set focuses largely on Cole’s work with the Trio and his partnership with his long-time guitarist Oscar Moore. in addition, the set contains dozens of rare and previously unknown transcriptions, mainly recorded by the trio and cut by Standard, Davis & Schwegler, and MacGregor for servicing radio stations. Also included are the wartime recordings produced for American servicemen by the Armed Forces Radio Service. The project has been produced in collaboration with the Nat King Cole estate and includes an extensive booklet with interviews and statements by Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Freddy Cole and highly detailed liner notes written by author Will Friedwald, the “Go-To Guy” when it comes to Nat King Cole. I recently had the
opportunity to speak with Will about this project and his coming biography of Nat King Cole.
Will has been “Working the Nat King Cole Beat” for over thirty years and during this period has played an integral part in the production of numerous boxed sets of recordings by Nat King Cole. Among these are the famous Mosaic Records boxed set of the Nat King Cole Trio, two sets for Bear Family Records, mostly covering his music from the 1950s and 60s, and a four-CD set for Capitol Records.
In addition, Will has completed a new book looking at the work of Nat King Cole titled “Straighten Up And Fly Right: The Life And Music Of Nat King Cole.” The book will be published by Oxford University Press and be on the shelves in May 2020.
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Before we started speaking about the project with Resonance, I was curious to find out a little more about Will’s coming book. There have been several books written about Nat King Cole over the years, some better than the others, however, it is not untouched territory. I asked Will how his book differs from those currently on the market. “This is the first new book on Nat in a long time and it is the only one that discusses his music in detail. There’s also a lot of new information about his personal life however, the main focus is the music and that’s never been written about before.” Being somewhat familiar with Will’s previous books I can imagine this will be a highly in-depth and enlightening read. Switching back to the project at hand, I was interested to find out more about the origins of the “Hittin’ the Ramp” project. Will explained that the genesis stemmed from his work in documenting the transcriptions recorded by Nat King Cole in the 1930s and early 1940s. In the 1990s Will embarked on a project together with a consortium of Nat King Cole experts to compile a comprehensive list of the transcriptions produced before Nat’s move to Capitol. Will stated, “All these transcriptions were known to exist but it was a big mystery as to how they were made, when they were made, and what exactly were they made for? At the time I was working with a group of different researchers including Ken Crawford, who owned most of the original recordings,
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a German discographer by the name of Klaus Teubig, UK based collector Roy G. Holmes and Gord Grieveson in Canada. Unfortunately, they have all now passed away however between the five of us we were able to get these recordings documented and
“in these early days the record labels and radio were not the best of friends...” into a comprehensive order. This work initially resulted in a limited edition package that came out in 1991 and was the first time that audiences were able to hear these recordings.” I think it’s worthy to note, in this context the word “Transcriptions” refers to “Electrical Transcriptions” or special phonograph recordings made exclusively for radio broadcasting. They were widely used during the “Golden Age of Radio” as station-identification, jingles and commercials as well as
full-length programs to be used by local stations and affiliates. Will pointed out that in these early days the record labels and radio were not the best of friends. in fact, it was common to see printed on many of the 78’s released in the 1930s “Not For Radio Broadcast.” Of course, this changed as the labels finally realised that having their artists’ music played on the radio increased their popularity therefore positively impacting their sales. As a side note, does this sound familiar? Take a look at the way labels viewed the introduction of streaming platforms — The more things change, the more they stay the same! Over the years Will continued to pursue this project pitching it to several labels, however, approximately three years ago Will was introduced to Matt Lutthans by his researcher Jordan Taylor and as it turned out, Matt had been working on a similar idea, one that was even
Nat King Cole more comprehensive than Will had in mind. Matt’s idea was to put together not only these transcriptions but all of Nat King Cole’s pre-Capitol recordings. “It turned out there was a lot more of this material than most people thought. Matt also had the brilliant idea of including the commercial recordings that Nat made for Decca” explained Will. With the inclusion of the Decca recordings and several recordings that were previously not known to exist there was enough material to fill out a seven CD set. Around this time Will had also been working on a number of other projects with Zev Feldman and George Klabin of Resonance Records. He quickly realised that this project was right up their alley and went on to say “When I e-mailed Zev about this project he replied within an hour, it was the quickest e-mail response I’ve ever had when pitching a project.” Suffice to say, Resonance was on board and now almost two
years on, the project is primed for release on the 1st of November. At this point in our discussion, I wanted to change tack a little and speak about the early career and impact Nat King Cole had on the music world as a whole and in particular the Jazz genre. As Will rightly pointed out, “Many people believe his career started in 1943 when he started recording for Capitol Records, but actually, the move to Capitol is about two or three chapters into his career. First of all, when Nat started working as a professional musician at the age of fifteen he led his own Big Band in his native Chicago. He wrote all of the arrangements and many of the songs, he really was completely in charge of this band. The band was playing at a club in Chicago called the Café Panama, a black club in Bronzeville, where the band was so popular that Decca took notice and had them do a session at their Chicago studios in 1936. At this time Nat was only seventeen. It was
a remarkable date and you can hear the true beginnings of Nat as a piano player. Right after that, they had an offer to go on the road with an all-new production of “Shuffle Along”, the famous allblack Broadway Show written by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. As the story famously goes, they got as far as Los Angeles when somebody made off with the band’s payroll. Nat always told the story that due to these events he was forced to stay in Los Angeles. The truth is, Nat could have gone back to Chicago any time but I think he had a real sense that Los Angeles was a whole new area for jazz and that there was a new opportunity for him there. He decided to stay and within a few months had put together the Nat King Cole Trio.” There have been many stories regarding the trio’s name however the most accurate is that the trio’s bass player at the time, Wesley Prince reminded Nat of the Nursery-rhyme Old King Cole and his Fiddlers Three. Nat was always aware of branding so decided to adopt the name. The trio began working at Swanee Inn on North La Brea Boulevard in Hollywood and became immediately popular appealing to both the black and white audience, something quite unusual at that time in the United States considering the music world was still strictly segregated in the 1930s and 40s. After about a year, they caught the ear of a Radio Transcription company and within the space of a few months, the trio had produced a huge catalogue of radio music. These recordings allowed the music of the trio to reach a large audience and proved to be hugely popular with listeners. I was interested to know what Will believed the secret of this success was. “Well, it turned out Nat was
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not only a brilliant jazz piano player and vocalist but also an amazing arranger. Nat just had this instant knack for arranging a song and knowing a good song from a bad one. This is one of the distinguishing aspects of his career, the ability to know what songs would resonate with an audience.” Throughout the history of Jazz, there have been countless artists who shaped the development of the genre. Will spoke quite passionately about where he believed Nat King Cole fitted into this. “I always say, when we look at Jazz and the Great American Songbook and particularly how those two are
intrinsically interrelated it seems to me that there are only three people that stand out above the crowd and they are Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole. Of course, we can look further afield and talk about Bing Crosby, Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughan or to the more modern vocalists of the era such as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Betty Carter but if you had to boil it down to three people it would definitely be those three. I think Nat, in particular, had the most impact, not just on black singers but also soul singers even though you wouldn’t consider him a soul singer in the manner of Ray Charles, Sam Cook or James Brown and yet he had an incredible impact on all of those people. I think it’s very telling that in 1953 after Nat had died the first major tribute album was from Marvin Gay. I think that shows that Nat’s legacy is such an ineffable part of the fabric of modern music and that’s not even talking about Nat as a piano player. When looking at Nat King Cole as a piano player there is no doubt he was one of the great piano
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players of his generation however, the majority of people still only know him as a vocalist. The fact is Nat King Cole was first and foremost a jazz pianist and contrary to popular opinion, never gave up playing the piano. In the early days in Chicago, Cole was heavenly influenced by Earl “Fatha” Hines and perhaps to a lesser extent Art Tatum. Canadian music critic Gene Lees recalled in an interview “Horace Silver once told me that when he first played the Newport Jazz Festival, impresario George Wein stood off-stage calling out, “Earl Fatha Hines, Earl Fatha Hines!” This baffled Horace since he had never listened to Hines. But later, he said, he realised that he had listened a lot to Nat Cole, and he listened to Hines.” Will added “There is no underestimating the impact of Nat King Cole as a pianist, in fact, many of the pianists from the generation that followed specifically point to Nat King Cole as a major influence including Oscar Peterson, George Shearing and Ahmad Jamal. Nat’s legacy at the piano is just as formidable and capacious as his legacy as a popular singer.” No matter how you look at it, there is no denying that Nat King Cole was one of the most influential artists of his time. To finish off, Will relayed a story that Norman Granz used to tell. This anecdote recalls a party in Los Angeles round 1940 and present at the event was Jimmy Rowles, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum and Count Basie. The story goes that Art Tatum played as did Nat. At one point Norman Granze turned to Basie and said “Bill, don’t you want to play?” Basie answered, “What, me play after Tatum and Nat Cole! I’d rather die first.”
Nat King Cole “Hittin’ The Ramp” The Early Years (1936 - 1942). Available: November 1st, 2019
Christian McBride Text by: Darrel Craig Harris | photos by R. Andrew Lepley
As a fellow bass player, it was my pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with Christian McBride, an artist I deeply admire. To set the scene allow me to give you an overview of his career thus far. As a Six-time Grammy®winning bassist Christian can be likened to a force of nature powered by a relentless energy and a boundless love of swing. Since arriving on the music scene his developmental path has been full of key milestones and this continues as McBride’s path now blazes into its third decade. The Philadelphia native has become one of the most requested, most recorded, and most respected figures in the music world today. We discussed a wide range of topics, so read on... Darrell Craig Harris: Hi Christian, it’s very nice to meet you. I understand that you are from Philly, but now live in New Jersey correct? CMB: Yes, from Philly. I now live in Montclair, New Jersey, right outside of New York. DCH: Tell me about growing up in Philadelphia, obviously Philly is a very well-known musical city. Did you have musicians in your family? CMB: Yes, my dad and my great uncle were musicians. They were both bass players. DCH: A family of bass players, that’s awesome! When did your love of music and Jazz start? CMB: Well all through high school. While I was studying Jazz, I was also studying a lot of Classical music. I was playing in many ensembles; Temple University had a Community Youth Orchestra and they also had a Youth Chamber Orchestra. There was also the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, which was pretty much a breeding ground for great symphonic and orchestral players. I was taking private lessons with a man named Neal Courtney who was the associate principal bassist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, so my classical skills were pretty
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sharp at that point or at least were sharp enough where I thought I maybe could get into Juilliard. My thought was that I would go to college to further my Classical studies and then learn Jazz the old fashion way. I would go to jam sessions, I’d get together with people and learn the old school way. At that time I’m not sure that I felt like I needed a classroom type of jazz education, I liked the idea of doing it the community or “folk” way. DCH: At the time you attended Juilliard, it was primarily known for being a Classical school correct? CMB: Yes, there was little to no Jazz program when I went there. DCH: But there is a Jazz program there now I understand? CMB: Yes. The Jazz program started in 1994, so 25 years that’s been happening! DCH: It’s interesting because most people really don’t relate Juilliard to Jazz, they would obviously think more of schools like Berklee perhaps. You attended the school for about a year and then got picked up by Bobby Watson, is that correct?
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CMB: Yes, that’s correct. I was actually playing with Bobby while I was going to school. I didn’t do well in my academic classes, I was already working/gigging and missing a lot of school time, I guess I wasn’t really around much. I played with Bobby for about two and a half years on and off. DCH: I believe at this time you were not only playing for Bobby Watson but also starting to pick up gigs playing with other musicians, right? CMB: Yes, most rhythm section players are always juggling a number of gigs. I was playing with Bobby Watson but also working with Roy Hargrove and I also started playing with Freddy Hubbard. Freddy was my first steady gig playing with an actual superstar. Freddy Hubbard’s rhythm section was Benny Green, myself and Carl Allen. When Freddy wasn’t working Benny took that rhythm section and started his own trio and that’s how The Benny Green Trio started. DCH: And at this point, almost all of your work is based in or coming out of New York, when did you actually first move to the city? CMB: Yes, I moved to New York the week before school started. It was August of 1989. DCH: To go back a bit, when you attended Juilliard were other Jazz musicians there at the time? or were you pretty much the only one? CMB: The only other person at Juilliard when I was there who made a mark on the Jazz scene was the bass player Ari Roland.
DCH: That’s an important part of it. A lot of kids come out of school and then have to figure out their career, how to make their first contacts and the rest! CMB: I think Jazz musicians often get too hung up on the concept. I play like this so now I have to create a style for me to thrive in, but no, you need to work first and foremost. You need to know how to make other styles of music sound good. You need to know what that style of music demands and give it that, as opposed to this is how I play and I’m only going to play with my friends that understand what I do! That’s all well and good, but don’t plan on working too much! DCH: Tell me about working with Freddy Hubbard, specifically at that young age, what was that like for someone who was just starting out their career? CMB: It was scary and challenging. He was quite unpredictable musically and in other aspects. You know, I was eighteen when I first started working with him and just tried to keep my eyes and ears open. I learned early in life how to assess situations.
I think Jazz musicians often get too hung up on the concept, I play like this so now I have to create a style for me to thrive in.
DCH: What was the outlook of the teachers at the school when it came to non-classical music such as jazz at that time? CMB: I didn’t really speak to many of my teachers when it came to playing Jazz music and as I said I wasn’t really around much. My bass teacher, Homer Minch, had a very deep respect for all Jazz musicians because he was also a session musician for many years on the New York studio scene. He did movie and TV scores, and played in the NBC orchestra for many years. He knew Bob Cranshaw, Ron Carter, Milt Hinton and all of those session guys so he had a real soft spot for the jazz players that came to Juilliard. He was a teacher and a mentor at the same time. He knew what it was like to be a working musician with so many different gigs. In our private lessons, he would take maybe the first ten minutes and ask me who I had been playing with and what I had coming up in the
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future. He was very interested in my career. Homer was a great great man, and knew what was involved in being a working musician!
DCH: You tell a story that Freddie would sometimes call tunes you hadn’t played before and about how important it is for young players to learn the great American songbook. How did you get your head around those tunes when you first started playing? CMB: I just played them. A lot of gigs that younger musicians do when they get on the scene are in cafés, bars, restaurant and it’s those gigs where you practice standards. I would play little gigs with Benny Green and we would play this little Chinese restaurant up on the Eastside. We would do that gig and just shed a bunch of standards. Bradley’s was probably the one place in New York where I learned the most. It was one of the few Jazz clubs where the bonified legends would hang and where all the up and coming cats would go and hang. Roy Hargrove and I would do a gig with guys like John Hicks or Gary Bartz, and Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan would be sitting in the audience. Imagine as a young comedian performing in a comedy club you’d see Eddie Murphy sitting in the audience and watching you, checking you out! I got my real education at that place. You’d play a set like that and then at the end of the set these guys like Ray Drummond or David Williams
Christian McBride might pull you aside and say “hey Christian come here, you know on the 8th bar you were supposed to play B flat 7 and they’d start schooling you on things you can’t learn in class or from books. DCH: Seems like New York City is such a rich breeding ground for great new players. Do you think it’s where you needed to be to make your career happen? CMB: It is interesting you ask me that question. I don’t know if you know the Saxophone player named Dave Benny. He wrote an article in Jazztimes Magazine and basically made the point that if you want to make it in Jazz maybe New York City is no longer the place you need to go. It was maybe a little controversial but he said it only because the cost of living has gotten out of control. There used to be a time that if you were a young guy coming to New York and wanted to be a musician, you might get a couple of guys and find a place to rent together, you’d struggle, but these days you would need seven room-mates (laughs).
about being a working musician is that at that time Ray Brown was probably sixty-three years old, probably the last thing he wanted to do was go hear more music at the end of the night. He probably had just played three sets back in those days, and now has some guy take him to another club to hear even more music with some young guys. He came into the club and heard our last four or five songs. After the set was over, we went and sat with him and needless to say we were just in awe. We thanked him for coming, and of course, told him that he was one of our heroes. Ray became very really serious, and looked at us and said, “You know I was not expecting to hear that. That was incredible what I
DCH: yeah, if you’re making a $100 a night on a gig, you can’t even really survive on that any more! CMB: Yeah I’m telling ya! But culturally speaking, I think New York is still the most important breeding ground in terms of what’s going on in the Jazz world. You also have to be creative to figure out how to survive here. DCH: Tell me about your connection with Ray Brown and how that came about? CMB: Benny Green and I were playing a gig at the Knickerbocker, a little bar in Greenwich Village and Benny’s manager at that time was really good friends with Ray Brown. Ray was playing in the neighbourhood at the Blue Note and Benny’s manager said, “I am going to bring Ray Brown in to hear you guys play when he is done playing at the Blue Note tomorrow night.” Benny and I were so scared and sure enough, the following night here comes Ray Brown walking in the club, you could see the ice appear on our hands. One thing I now know
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heard. You guys kind of remind me of what Oscar and I used to do. He said I’m going to invite you guys to my set tomorrow night.” We went to his closing night at the Blue Note the next evening and much to our shock while he was introducing the band he says to the audience, “Last night after my gig, I went a few blocks up the street here and heard these two young men and they were swinging so hard I must acknowledge them because I have a feeling you will be hearing more from them in the future.” He acknowledges us from the stage that blew our minds and of course as fate would have it, Benny Green ended up joining Ray’s trio about eight months later, and he started “Super Bass” shortly after that. Whatever Ray heard that night at the Knickerbocker really touched him deeply, but he sure touched us much deeper than that for a much longer period of time! DCH: “ Super Bass” is, of course, a trio that you were in with Ray, what was it like to play and record with Ray in Super Bass?
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CMB: It was scary. Now Ray was surely not as musically unpredictable as Freddie Hubbard but he was equally as powerful. Standing next to Ray Brown for the first time and hearing and feeling him walk, it was overwhelming, you know, that’s one of those moments you never forget. We were in Pittsburgh rehearsing and first of all, I was scared to death. I knew that Ray and John Clayton had a long-standing relationship and had done previous projects together. I was sort of paranoid that John Clayton was looking at me like the new younger brother he didn’t ask for (laughs)! So I come in and I am standing next to John and Ray. I’m scared because I don’t want to mess anything up. Ray started walking that bass, and I just stood there for a minute or two thinking well what do I do now. Ray looked at me and said “solo” and I said, “over that?” His walking was just so forceful, so strong, so powerful. It was like Mohamed Ali is throwing punches at you and says “come on, hit me back!” So finally I just took a deep breath and said alright I’m going to do what I
Christian McBride can and that was the beginning of “Super Bass”.. DCH: Something that I notice with your playing is you really dig in deep to get a powerful tone. Would you credit Ray Brown for some of that approach? CMB: Yes, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, and Paul Chambers those are my top three heroes. DCH: Those are the top three for a lot of folks. What I really like about you is your versatility in being able to jump from electric to double bass. Did you start on the electric first and then go to double bass and did you always have in your mind that you would do both? CMB: Yes, again my reasoning was more pragmatic. I wanted to work, I wanted to play with anyone that needed a bass player. I always wanted to keep my chops up, and as it turned out I’m not really playing a lot of electric but it was important to be able to do both! Once the 90s and 2000s started to progress, I started playing a lot more electric bass. I did gigs with George Duke, George Benson and I did a record with Questlove, “The Philadelphia Experiment”. QL of all people always makes me pour-out with laughter. Every time we are together, he says, “You still got these Jazz people fooled, thinking that you are a Jazz guy. You guys think that Christian is this Wynton Marsalis or Ray Brown protégé but like I know who he really is, cause I grew up with him (laughs) he’s really a funk guy!” But man he’s so amazing and such a good guy, I couldn’t be happier how his career has gone for him, he’s such a good guy!
for the sessions. You see, I had forgotten Chris had been touring with Sting on the “Brand New Day” album, so then it all made sense. The story I heard was Sting had mentioned he didn’t want to play the bass on his next album, he wanted it to be an acoustic bass. Chris jumped up and said, “I know the guy you need to call.” That is how I got the gig. DCH: It seems like you have a real passion for teaching, so tell me a little bit about that. CMB: I am not even sure I have a passion for teaching really, what I have a passion for is people. I really love hanging with people and hearing their stories. That came directly from my mom. Growing up listening to records with her she would give a whole narration about when this record first came out, she would give us these brilliant stories! She was the best storyteller ever, she was really teaching me! It really taught me to listen to music! Every record I would listen to I’d want to know the background behind it. It is a way of learning.
Sting mentioned he didn’t want to play the bass on his next album, he wanted it to be an acoustic bass. Chris jumped up and said, “I know the guy you need to call.” That is how I got the gig.
DCH: You made the transition to start playing with more Pop musicians, how did that come about? Was it something that was organic or was it something you really worked towards? CMB: No, it was all organic. Sometime in the late 1990s, I did a recording with Chris Botti, I didn’t know the other people in the band were also members of Sting’s band. By the end of the 90s, I was a pretty active NY session guy and I knew most of the other session musicians. I could hear they all had British accents and they were all great musicians, I thought who are these guys. So, we did this recording session and I’m thinking, “Where did Chris find these guys?” Then maybe nine months later, Chris called me for another session and it was the same guys. I thought I need to figure out who these people are, trying not to look like an idiot, I found out on the down low that Chris had basically borrowed Sting’s touring band
DCH: Tell me a little bit about the stories working with James Brown. How did you first come to meet him?
CMB: I like to say I met him in stages. The very first time I was eleven years old. He came to Philly to play at a place called the Uptown Theatre. My uncle, who was a promotional manager out of radio station in Philly took me backstage and I shook James Brown’s hand and gave me an autograph. The next time I met him was backstage at The Apollo Theatre in New York when he was making his “Live Apollo Volume Four” album in 1994. I took him a little care package of CDs I had played on because I knew he was a big jazz fan and liked to keep his ear to the ground on what was going on in the jazz world. Then the next year, the summer on 1995, my first record had come out and I was on this All-star tour through Verve records with Jimmy Smith as the headliner. I knew that was James Brown’s man. By that time Mr Brown knew who I was, so that’s the first time we really had a conversation and he was then really aware of my existence (laughs). DCH: You were on one of his last shows at the Hollywood Bowl, right? CMB: Yes, it was the year of 2006. Now in 2005, the L.A. Philharmonic made me the Creative Chair of their Jazz programming. I was urged to think outside of the box to fill seats at the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert
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Hall, both large venues, that was a challenge. The first season I thought, how about we get James Brown here to sing with my big band. James had done this rather obscure album called, “Soul on Top”, with Louis Bellson, Oliver Nelson, and Ray Brown, all my jazz heroes you know. That record kind of flew under the radar, so I thought we should play that album live. The L.A. Phil put together a big band for me and James Brown, much to my shock, agreed to the concert. He said I only have one request, let me do a couple of songs with my regular band. We had my big band on one side of the stage, and we had James Brown’s band on the other side of the stage. That was an evening to remember for sure! DCH: In 2016, you were named Artistic Director of The Newport Jazz festival. During your career, you’ve held a number of similar positions. What’s your motivation with those types of positions? CMB: I like to put musicians together who don’t normally get to play together. I enjoy these curatorial positions because not only do I get to dream, but I also get to talk to other musicians and find out what their dreams and goals are and see if we can make that happen! DCH: I know you are going to be on tour in October with Chick Corea. You’ve had a long ongoing relationship with Chick what do you like about playing with him and how did that come about?
CMB: Well actually it was a total emergency that put that group together! Two guys from my regular band couldn’t make the gig and I was at the Monterey Jazz Festival and needed a band and like quickly! So I had to look around in the performance schedule at the festival and really see who might be available during the time I was supposed to be on stage. I couldn’t find a drummer and I knew DJ Logic’s around so he’ll be the drummer. Patrice Rushens was also here, and I asked her to play piano and keyboards. I already had Ron Blake playing the sax for me. So, I thought let’s just make something happen! DCH: So is the “Situation” now a set group of musicians? CMB: Well, DJ Logic, Patrice and Ron Blake have always been the core, but since then I have added Alison Williams on vocals and a second dj DJ Jahi Sundance who is the son of the great saxophonist Oliver Lake!
I said, Chick I’m not so sure you should make that public, cause I think your phone would go on tilt!
CMB: I admire him so much, I mean, we all admire him really, Chick is so prolific. He literally has not lost a step, physically, mentally and musically. He has always maintained such a high level of excellence, it’s important to not take him for granted, he is one of those rare titans. Working with him is always a joy. I’m always looking forward to playing his music, at his core he is still just an everyday working musician. I remember one time on the bus heading to some gig, he said uh “man you know it’s a shame that no one calls me for recording sessions any more” I looked at him and said, what? (Laughs) He said, “I miss just playing dates as a sideman, guys would just call me up to play piano or for a recording session.” I said, Chick I’m not so sure you should make that public, I think your phone would go on tilt! DCH: He has launched so many legendary careers it’s pretty amazing when you add it all up! The trio environment, is that something you prefer? CMB: I don’t have a preference. It is whatever satisfies the hunger at that moment.
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DCH: How did the “Christian McBride Situation” come together? Is it a set group of band members?
DCH: What’s your next recording project and when will it be released? CMB: I have a new Big Band album coming out in February 2020. It is something that we actually recorded four years ago. It’s a studio recording and called The Movement Revisited!
DCH: You’ve been doing some artist development and production work under the umbrella of Mack Avenue? How is that for you? CMB: Well, the reason I got involved with this is that I got asked to work with some other artists, and then it just seemed to make sense to create a production umbrella. So I’m hoping to be able to get some of these now independent artists released eventually under my umbrella so those recordings see the light of day! DCH: How is it for you being in the role of producer! CMB: I am still getting used to it. It seemed like the next logically step. I just did a production recording with a great guitarist by the name of Dan Wilson. He plays in my Sin City Trio. He did an amazing job, It should be out in the late winter. It’s through Mack Avenue / Brother Mister label. DCH: Thanks so much for your time Christian, it is so appreciated! CMB: Thank you! My pleasure!
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Photo - John Faddis 43. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Jazz Behind The Lens
Chris Drukker It’s all about the moment! Text by: Andrew Read | Photos Chris Drukker
For this edition’s Behind the Lens feature, we cross the pond to meet New Jersey based photographer and graphic designer Chris Drukker. During his career, Chris has photographed many of New York’s top jazz musicians, designed close to 1000 album covers and worked in various capacities for many of the cities top institutions including Jazz at the Lincoln Center and WBGO Jazz radio. As a child, Chris was interested in Illustration and this passion was carried through to his high school years. After graduating, Chris attended an applied graphic design course and on completion entered the corporate world working as a graphic designer for some of the countries top corporations including AT&T and Dow Jones to name a few.
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Photo - Paquito Dâ€™Rivera 45. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
n 2008 Chris made the decision to leave to the security of the corporate world and further build his career as a freelance designer. Chris explained, “The corporate world is tough and although it provided some security, I was looking for something more satisfying.” His focus on the music business was logical; for many years he had been involved with the jazz world in various capacities with a focus on marketing & design. When asked about this transition from the corporate world to the music industry Chris Stated: “Well, it didn’t feel at all like a transition, it just sort of took over.” Chris’ passion for photography grew out of his work as a designer. A meeting with bassist Rufus Reid led to a commission to design the art-work for his “Seven Minds” album on Sunnyside Records. Now, almost 35 years on, Chris has produced the art-work for close to 1,000 albums for Sunnyside, Passin’ Thru Records, Savant, HighNote among others. I asked Chris if he considered himself more of a designer or a photographer, he explained, “I’m both, for me photography and graphic design are just two sides of the same thing, it’s all about balance and form.” Zeroing in on his work as a photographer, Chris’ main areas of focus are portrait, location and live concert photography. I asked Chris about his process. “I always like to start by understanding what the client needs, in some cases, this is different from what the client thinks he or she wants. Before any session I like to have a strategy meeting, this really helps me get an idea of where to go with the project. I tend to focus on the eyes and hands, I believe these say almost everything about the subject. With musicians, the instrument is also important and then lastly I look at the background. I also think it’s vital that the subject feels comfortable with the process, I have to admit, sometimes I feel I am as much a psychologist as a photographer. Often we’ll have the location set before the shoot however there are times when I like to spend time walking through the city with the client and when we come across a great setting we take the shot. I recently did a series of shots for vocalist Paul Jost. We spent the best part of a day just walking around Manhattan taking shots. As I said before, the most important thing is that the client feels comfortable.” Chris recalled a story regarding a shoot with Houston Person. “I did a session for Highnote Records with Houston Person, I was up most of the night thinking how best to approach this. I realised I needed to make this as painless as possible. We had a limited amount of time, so I had already scoped out the location and once we arrived I just hung back while Houston and the others were discussing things. While this was going on, I just started shooting. After about 15 minutes Houston said, “So where’s the photographer, we better get these shots done.” I replied, we’re done! I have what we need. Chris is equally at home in a concert environment and has built a huge portfolio of live shots. For many years Chris was the house photographer at the New Jersey venue “Trumpets” run by guitarist Enrico Granafei and Kristine Massari. According to Chris, the venue had a great list of musicians coming through and it was a great opportunity to build a portfolio and expand my network. I asked Chris how working in a live setting differs in his opinion from other location work. He explained, “When doing a live shoot, it’s important to keep out of the way as much as possible. Often this is not easy, I spend a fair bit of time on the floor, in fact, I have been called a photo ninja in the past. Again, it’s all about emotion and light. I look at it like slipstreaming in the emotion of the moment and feeding off the energy on stage.” I asked Chris if he had any closing thoughts. He replied, “I always remember a quote from Art Blakey—if you take care of the music, music will take care of you. I think this sums it up.”
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Photo - Wallace Roney 47. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
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Photo - Matt Penman 49. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
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Photo - Mike LeDonne 51. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Photo - Billy Harper 52 | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Photo - Cyrus Chestnut 53 | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
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Photo - Benny Green 55. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Photo - John Pizarrell 56. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Photo - Paul Jost 57. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
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The Diggers Factory A New Take On Vinyl.
Text by: Nigel J. Farmer | Photos by: Courtesy of The Diggers Factory
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ecently, I was made aware of the Diggers Factory, an innovative French company offering a solution to Indie artists looking to release their albums on vinyl. Being curious, I contacted the company at their headquarters in Paris to find out more. However, before we get into this, letâ€™s just take a quick look at the market to put things into perspective. Note, the figures stated below are related to the industry as a whole and while the Jazz genre accounts for a relatively small percentage of total sales the trends are consistent. There is no denying that vinyl has made a massive comeback over the last decade. To illustrate, according to industry data reported by Nielsen Music, 2018 was the 13th consecutive year of vinyl sales growth. If we purely look at sales, in 2018 the number of vinyl albums shipped in the USA exceeded 16.8 million. In Germany, this figure was 3.1 million while in the UK the number of vinyl LPs sold exceeds 4.2 Million. To put this into perspective, in this period vinyl accounted for 12 per cent of physical album sales in the USA. Factoring in streaming and downloads, that number drops to 2.7 per
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cent of album-equivalent music consumption, still very substantial numbers. 2018 also saw the continued exponential growth of streaming services accounting for over 75% of music consumption, yet contributed only 47% of revenue (this value-gap is a problem the industry needs to address). During the same period, CD sales continued to decline, albeit at a slightly decreased rate. As expected, permanent digital download sales continued to plummet. With Apple announcing it will discontinue iTunes we can expect the download market to all but disappear in the coming years. While these are pure macro figures the trend is clear, streaming and vinyl are the growth areas while CDs and downloads will most likely continue to decline in sales. An interesting by-product of the vinyl resurgence is the increase in â€œbrick and mortarâ€? outlets. Nielsen also reported that in the United States 41% of vinyl albums sold were via independent music stores with the rest of the market taken up by niche mail-order services, clubs,
The Diggers Factory direct to fan and traditional internet platforms. This is not surprising as market research shows many vinyl junkies consider digging through racks of LPs as part of the whole experience. In addition events such as Record Store Day and Record Store Day Black Friday have given the market a major boost.
price set by the artist, the reward is the album itself. This is not unique in the market; it’s a method employed a number of labels, e.g. Artist Share Records in the USA. Having personally seen the shine come off the standard crowd-funding models of late I think this makes a great deal of sense, specifically from a marketing perspective.
So how does all this play out in the real world? Here at Jazz In Europe, we have witnessed a shift in format. We are seeing more albums being issued on vinyl as well as CD. In fact, we have seen a number of labels starting to phase out CD production altogether moving towards focusing purely on streaming and vinyl. As far as the independent productions go, we have not seen a huge amount of Indie releases being issued on vinyl. Producing vinyl as a small label or independent artist has its challenges, vinyl is expensive to produce and sales, distribution and fulfilment can prove difficult for independent artists with limited resources. The good news is that a solution exists in the form of the innovative French-based company The Diggers Factory.
The goal of the diggers Factory was to create a community of artists and fans that are passionate about vinyl providing on one side funding via pre-sales and on the other side a marketplace for their records, manufacturing and distribution. Both founders had no formal experience in the music industry, and this provided them with the advantage of not being limited by industry convention. Inspired by platforms such as Bandcamp, Kickstarter and CD Baby the pair set out to cherry-pick the services these platforms offered and mould this into the Diggers Factory innovative model.
You might be wondering why the name Diggers Factory? The term digger has nothing to do with Australian soldiers during the first world war but is derived from the term “Crate Digger”, a description commonly used in the vinyl world for searching through old crates looking for that elusive LP. The Diggers Factory have single-handedly solved many of the problems that face an independent artist wishing to release their album on vinyl. I recently had the pleasure to speak with the team at the Diggers Factory to speak about the company, how it came into existence and how they have managed to come up with a new innovative model. It all began back in 2016 when Alexis Castiel and Victor Perin, both passionate about vinyl, realised there was a need to provide a platform that would allow independent artists to produce vinyl albums. Alexis quickly realised that the cost of producing vinyl was prohibitive for most indie artists, manufactures required large minimum orders and with production costs being so high the financial risk was too large for many. The founders wanted to create a model that would allow artists to create vinyl without having to invest large sums. The initial model was inspired by existing crowdfunding models however Alexis wanted to go further. While traditional crowd-funding platforms offered a solution to provide the funds for production, the artist was still on their own in the sales and distribution areas. Another area where the Diggers Factory differs from the traditional crowd-funding model is that the funding is done through pre-order sales. In other words, the customer is buying the album in advance at the retail
The first aspect of the service is funding. An artist can create a project on the platform and immediately be able to see what the production costs will be. One major difference between the Diggers Factory and other manufacturers is the ability to do production runs with as little as 50 units being produced making special limited editions a possibility. The artist then has the ability to choose the price the album will retail for and then sell this as a pre-order to their fan-base and of course the Diggers Factory community. The model is simple, customers pre-order the album and once the required level of pre-order sales is reached the album goes into production. If the required level of pre-sales is not met, the artist can either choose to fund the difference themselves or cancel the production in which case the pre-order sales are refunded to the customer. The second phase is the production. Diggers Factory has a number of manufacturing partners that take care of the pressing as well as a number of mastering engineers that can create a master optimized for vinyl. Of course, the artist can also have this done by the engineer of their choice, there’s no requirement for the artist to use the Diggers Factory in-house mastering engineers. The company works with a wide range of pressing partners throughout Europe providing many custom production options for both the packaging and the pressing. In a recent interview with Attack Magazine Alexis stated; “We work with 10 different factories, so we can offer every option that exists on earth.” Having seen a number of albums done via the company I have been very impressed with the quality of the product. As I mentioned earlier in this article the issue of sales, distribution and fulfilment also present a hurdle that many artists find difficult to grapple with. I believe one
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of the most important aspects of the services provided by the Diggers Factory is the ability to sell your albums direct to fans via their online shop. This provides the artist with a sales portal for their releases and avoids the hassle of having to take care of the shipping themselves. While the Diggers factory is mainly focused on direct to fan sales they also have a number of third-party distribution partners including PIAS, Republic of Music and Alliance Entertainment in the USA. This option makes the service very attractive for both small labels and independent artists. Moving on to the vinyl market in general, I asked Paul-Elie
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Frogé from the Diggers Factory what he believed was driving the demand for vinyl. Paul stated that he believed the emergence of streaming had a large impact on the resurgence of vinyl. “With more and more music only being available via streaming platforms, especially in the pop and rock world, fans are looking for the physical experience. It’s a lifestyle thing; we hear from our community that the physical experience of putting an album on a turntable and immersing themselves in the listening experience is what a lot of people are looking for. It’s also the packaging, and a vinyl album gives you far more opportunities to create compelling art-work, it’s all part of the experience.”
One of the most interesting aspects of our conversation came when we discussed market demographics. Paul explained that the majority of their retail customers were aged between 25 and 35 years old. I found this to be quite fascinating, my general view was that the average vinyl lover was older and looking to recreate the experience of listening to music from their youth. While this was the case in the early days of the vinyl resurgence, it would appear this is no longer the case. Vinyl is hip and the Millennials have the market. One of the most encouraging trends in the market for vinyl is the slow shift in the number of new releases being sold on vinyl.
The early days of the resurgence saw mostly secondhand vinyl and re-issues dominate the market. While this is still to a large degree the case, the percentage of new releases being sold has started to grow substantially. With companies such as the Diggers Factory coming online vinyl has now become a viable option for independent artists and smaller labels particularly given the sales and distribution facilities the company provides. So to round things up, itâ€™s clear that vinyl is hip and at the moment demand is showing no signs of slowing.
64. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Lori Williams The vision, power and hope.
Photo Â© Grover Massenburg
Text by: Fiona Ross | Photos by Grover Massenburg & Roy Cox
65. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
66. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Photo © Roy Cox
“So many Jazz musicians tell me they feel more ‘at home’ in Europe than they do in the US. I find this fascinating, especially when you consider the roots and history of Jazz.”
ori Williams is an American vocal artist, educator, songwriter, producer and quite simply, a force to be reckoned with. She has worked with an incredible line up of artists including Nathan East, Savion Glover, Will Downing, Eric Benet, Walter Hawkins and Slide Hampton. Terri Lynne Carrington said that Lori ‘seamlessly moves from Jazz to R&B in ways the listener can feel at home with her in either genre. She has set the bar for vocalists to come.’ Having recently released her fifth album ‘Full Circle’ and set up an incredible organisation ‘Positive Music for Positive Minds’ it was wonderful to catch up with Lori and have an insight into her world. Born and raised in Southeast DC, Lori fell in love with Jazz while she was a student at Hampton University, Virginia, where she participated in their wonderful Jazz program, despite being on a degree program for Communication and Mass Media Arts. Sneaking around seems to be a prerequisite for all great Jazz artists, and Lori is no exception. LW: My Mum and Dad did not feel I would be a successful performer for a few reasons. The entertainment field is very difficult to get into and they wanted me to have a job that was secure. But you know, I did everything that was the opposite of what they wanted me to do, ha! A lot of sneaking when I was at school. My Mum and Dad never had the chance to hear me sing in a Jazz setting. It was very difficult and I guess an awakening experience to know that they wouldn’t be part of something so passionate and close to my heart. They heard me singing, but it was always in a church setting. They were a very religious and spiritual family and that was where they felt my talent should be. I branched out a little bit and fell in love with Jazz, which to me, is very
67. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Lori Williams spiritual music. I equate my singing to a wonderful blessing that I have had in music. Lori spoke of some of the challenges of starting her musical career and her biography on her website quotes her as saying ‘Back then, the demographics were such that a chocolate sister with natural hair like myself was not ‘the desired one.’ As an American based artist, Lori has gigged extensively in the US but loves working in Europe. It seems to be a common theme with, especially American Jazz artists that I speak to. Europe seems to offer more. So many Jazz musicians tell me they feel more ‘at home’ in Europe than they do in the US. I find this fascinating, especially when you consider the roots and history of Jazz. We explored this. LW: In society, even in college, I wanted to have a particular role in the field I was studying (media and communications) I wanted to be on the television, but the job I was given was the radio. And as we know, on the radio, no one sees you, but I wanted to be seen and accepted. The first time I left Europe, I cried as I felt such a connection because I was so loved just
for being who I was and so loved for the music that I shared, it was overwhelming. I’ve been to Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine and everywhere I went, I met people who loved me. And it wasn’t because they were star struck. They were intrigued by the fact that an African American would come so many miles to share a personal part of who I am with them. And now I have so many people who I call family in Europe. ‘I love the freeness and the openness’ It’s so interesting as I see a flip side to even that quote that I said when I travelled to Europe. I am not looked at as someone who is not desired when I travel to Europe. I’ve been called exotic – I’ve been called many wonderful things that I have never been called before. That why I love going to Europe as I am so well received, not just because of the music but for me as a person. In my life, here in America, we experience so many challenges having to be accepted in cultural society, social society, business society, as a black American and I have had so many different struggles. I am not a fair-skinned black person, I am a brown-
Photo © Roy Cox
68. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
Photo © Roy Cox “Yes. I’ve been saying
that for years. I believe in the power of words and how impactful what we say is to other people and also, to ourselves. You can’t take back the words you speak to the universe.”
I have often discussed the power and importance of words and Lori is a huge driving force in empowering people to use their words wisely. All of her promotional material has this statement standing proudly: “Words are powerful, Speak Wisely.”
skinned, chocolate girl with natural hair and I have learned in all my years, to embrace who I am and to accept it, not feel ashamed and I think this is also conveyed in my music. I have accepted who I am – and I love who I am – and we can agree it is the music that has brought us together. But we need to get beyond the skin and the hair and the nose and the eyes and what makes us different. I think the uniqueness that we all possess is really important, and it shows who we are, and we really need to learn to love ourselves and I try to teach this wherever I go. We are always looking for positive affirmations from someone else, but we have to love ourselves first. In my role as an ambassador, when I travel to Europe – and I think of myself as a cultural ambassador because I have all of these wonderful opportunities that a lot of people don’t get so, I have to be able to use my voice in a positive way.
69. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
LW. Yes. I’ve been saying that for years. I believe in the power of words and how impactful what we say, is to other people and also, to ourselves. You can’t take back the words you speak to the universe. There’re some songs that I have written that I don’t perform anymore because I said what I needed to say, so it’s done. When people come to my performances the lyrics are important and of course, I want to convey the message in a powerful way, but I hope that they see a person who has gone through a similar thing that they have gone through and are able to relate to them in a more personal way through the music. The stories that I tell are not just my stories. I definitely want to listen, to walk away knowing that – and I say this to my children – that there is rainbow after every storm and even though we go through storms, or difficult times in our lives, there is always going to be that rainbow, the sun is always behind the clouds – there is always something positive that can come through if we don’t sit in the negativity. Always try to find the positivity. Lori, however, takes this even further. She is the mastermind behind the Positive Music for Positive Minds organisation which teaches students about exactly how powerful words can be through Jazz and contemporary genres. The organisation supports
Lori Williams ‘the principle of choosing positive music that does not degrade gender/culture/race/religion or use excessive profanity or encourage violence.’ Lori has just left her long-time role as Director of Vocal Music at Woodrow Wilson High School – a significant step but teaching is in her blood. LW: My approach to teaching is more on the maternal side. Music for me is therapeutic, so when students come into the space it is a way of escaping whatever has happened on the outside and we let it all out. It is hard to put Jazz in a category that is all-encompassing that is all one, cute, tiny, wrapped up box. You have all of these different cultures that are meddled together and I am just so glad that I can convey that and share that. The students are able to share a part of who they are on whatever favourite music they have. Lori’s latest album ‘Full Circle’ sees her return to more traditional Jazz having seen her previous work comparing her to likes of Anita Baker and receiving an incredible reception across the world. It’s a wonderful album with an overwhelming sense of warmth,
love and spiritual awareness. One track is especially emotional ‘The Best is Yet to Come.’ Her father, who passed away recently and as mentioned earlier, never heard her sing in a Jazz setting, wrote the song based on scripture and sang it into her iPhone. This recording is used and beautifully embedded with Lori’s voice – the effect is breathtaking. When speaking to Lori and listening to her performances, you cannot help but feel she is on your side. She exudes positivity and warmth. I wish I had been one of her students. She talks about weathering storms and that whatever you are going through, hardships, life struggles, there is always hope and always good things waiting. She says, ‘there is always a rainbow to find’. Lori is that rainbow. LW: “I am a woman of vision and hope. Much of my music could very well have been written from a perspective of tragedy. I prefer possibility. Nothing in life happens by accident. My heart knows love is there and can be found. I’m in a happy place now and eternally grateful.”
Photo © Roy Cox
70. | Jazz In Europe - Autumn 2019
The New Album From
Sónia Pinto – Why Try To Change Me Now. Featuring: Pedro Neves (p), Bruno Macedo (g), Miguel Ângelo (b) and Leandro Leonet (dr) What Sets Sónia Pinto apart is her wondrous, powerful voice, and her unconditional devotion to music! When interpreting such well-known songs as “Cry Me A River”, “Fly Me To The Moon” or “I Say A Little Prayer”, she seems to give the works a brand new sense of style. With her quintet, she gracefully approaches the “established” masterpieces in her repertoire. Together they dress the pieces up in surprisingly modern arrangements and playfully add one or two melodic lines. Pinto‘s other great talent as a lyricist is also revealed when they set one of her poems to music on “The Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers”.
Big Band der Deutschen Oper Berlin - “Nothin but the blues” Featuring: China Moses - voc, Konstantin Reinfeld - blues harp
The Big Band der Deutschen Oper Berlin will present an evening of blues music on the 25th of Feburary, 2020 at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. Special guests for the evening are vocalist China Moses and Harmonica virtuoso and Mons Records recording artist Konstantin Reinfeld. For more information and tickets visit the bands website www.bigband-deutscheoperberlin.de ww
Patrick Deltenre & Ivan Paduart – “Hand in Hand” - On Tour. 20/10/19 - Uccle - Studio latéral, BE 04/11/19 - Kasterlee - Houtum street jazz club, BE 08/11/19 - Etterbeek - Le “Bouche à oreille”, BE 15/11/19 - Comines - Open Music Jazz club, BE 16/11/19 - Lessines - Centre Culturel René Magritte, BE 17/11/19 - Luxembourg - Abbaye de Neumunster, LU 28/11/19 - Tienen - Centre Culturel de Kruisboog, BE
06/12/19 - Saint Josse - Jazz Station, BE 14/12/19 - Bossière - Fermaculture, BE 22/12/19 - Geraardsbergen - The Preacher, BE 03/01/20 - Moscow - Jam club, RU 04/01/20 - Moscow - Jam club, RU 23/01/20 - Courcelles - La posterie, BE 04/02/20 - Torhout - The Black Cat, BE
Erik Leuthäuser - "In the land of Irene Kral & Alan Broadbent" (live at A-Trane Berlin) Peter Fessler - Solo Time
The Jazz In Europe Magazine is dedicated to the European Jazz scene and beyond and this is represented by our large global readership. The m...
Published on Oct 23, 2019
The Jazz In Europe Magazine is dedicated to the European Jazz scene and beyond and this is represented by our large global readership. The m...