Feb 14 2013
While wandering the halls at Bandcamp a couple months ago, I stumbled upon the Label Love Vol. 5: The Jazz Edition compilation. It’s a 15-track free download, representing some of the new generation of Jazz musicians, mostly from the UK scene, and comprised of some of the newer, smaller labels currently releasing some of the most compelling Jazz today, including labels like Tru Thoughts Recordings, Impossible Ark Records, Jazzman Records, Gondwana Records, Edition Records, Revivalist Music Group, Katalyst Entertainment, and Basho Records.
Typical of the music on this compilation is its definitive modernity, even as it sometimes echoes the Jazz of the past. And even though the different musicians participating have their own singular sounds, the LLV5 compilation goes a long way to accurately reflecting a predominant voice of Jazz in the present day, especially as reflected through the UK scene. Many of the musicians that comprise this project can be found collaborating on the recordings of one another, and oftentimes with astoundingly different results.
The Label Love project is spearheaded by Tru Thoughts Recordings rep Jasmine De La Paz. I spoke to her about the project… an interview you can read just below. But first, I’ve embedded the audio player with all 15 tracks (the player only shows ten, I know, but there’s nothing to do about that. I assure you, it will play all 15 tracks), and I’ve included some brief comments about each track, including a link to any reviews that I’ve written previously for the site.
At any time, just hit the Download button on the audio player just below. It will open a window that asks you for an email address. The system will send you an email with a link. Follow that link from your email, and it opens a page from where you can begin downloading the album. It defaults to a file format of MP3, but you can use the drop-down box and choose other file formats, too, including lossless. For those of you who feel confused by these instructions, trust me, it’s way easy, and it’ll take you less time to get the download than it took me to type these instructions.
Here’s some general thoughts and impressions of the fifteen tracks that comprise this free compilation:
Track 1: Menagerie (from their album They Shall Inherit) – This is music to roll the car windows down on the first day of Spring and play it loud. A Spiritual Jazz release, mixed with funk & R&B, and it’s ridiculously catchy. Reviewed here.
Track 2: Sara Mitra (from April Song) – A nostalgic sound of 1960’s Hollywood movie scenes… that oddly compelling mix of chipper melodies and haunting vocals. Piano and drums are her best friends on this track.
Track 3: Matthew Halsall (from Fletcher Moss Park) – Trumpeter Halsall, who brings a late-night smokey jazz club cool to his music, adds some spiritual jazz to the mix, and a more expansive sound. Reviewed here.
Track 4: Greg Foat (from Girl and Robot w/Flowers) – An electronic jazz sound, rich with ambient textures, generous with hopping rhythms, and a dose of outer space effects. This is actually a modern release from Jazzman Records, who took a short break from culling the archives. Reviewed here.
Track 5: Ivo Neame (from Yatra) – Folk textures overlay this modern jazz tune. Up-tempo, a sunny warmth, but the ensemble takes sharp unexpected angles to give it some edge. A song that’ll keep you on your toes. Neame is one of the more inventive composers on the scene.
Track 6: Nostalgia 77 (from The Taxidermist) – This tune is a cool stroll down a nighttime street in the heart of Friday night. An album that has an old-school groove but has both feet in modern jazz territory. A very fun album. Reviewed here.
Track 7: Kahil El’Zabar (from It’s Time) – Kahil El’Zabar has impressive jazz roots dating back to Chicago’s AACM. Those roots are evident here, though clearly a modern approach. Afro-jazz percussion, splendid groove, spiritual at heart, and avant-garde flirtations. For myself, it’s been great hearing his creative approach over the course of time.
Track 8: Troyka (from Moxxy) – Rock-jazz fusion album from a trio of solid UK jazz musicians. Rocks more than it grooves, but does plenty of both. Lots of tinkering with melodies, music as science experiment. Reviewed here.
Track 9 : Dwight Trible (from Cosmic) – Veteran vocalist who brings poetry to the music. Keys swirl, sax trades lines with Trible. It’s been awhile since his album Living Water, and it’s nice to see him back on the recording scene.
Track 11 – Allsopp, Vosloo, Stanley, Giles (from A Flower is a Lonesome Thing) – Saxophone quartet that, on this recording, plays fresh renditions of jazz standards. Contrasts quite a bit from the avant-garde sound of their Golden Age of Steam project (just below). Something for the straight-ahead jazz fan.
Track 12: That’s Why (from Spiritual Jazz Vol. 3) – A mix of Norwegian folk music and religious music from sixties & seventies. A lovely tune with the sway of a ballad and the spark of life of something with some fight to it. Highly encourage giving a shot to all three volumes of his Spiritual Jazz compilation series.
Track 13: Golden Age of Steam (from Welcome to Bat Country) – This is avant-garde. These are brooding tunes. This is whimsical music of a serious nature. Music that has the eerie beauty of a Tom Waits recording and the free jazz spirit of Henry Threadgill’s inventive work. Reviewed here.
Track 14: Examples of Twelves (from Things Will Be) – This ensemble mixes new- and old-school jazz with ambient post-rock excursions. Result is a cinematic groove with tantalizing melodic drift and occasional bursts of pure jazz fire. For myself, this ensemble has been on one of my lists for too long, need to start reviewing their albums.
Track 15: Kit Downes Trio (from Quiet Tiger) – Rustic tone and gentle sway. This tune is nice and slow, ambles pleasantly from step to step. Piano is delicate and light, on an album of brooding tunes and moonlight serenades. Reviewed here.
I spoke with Tru Thoughts Recordings’ Jasmine De La Paz, who spearheaded the initiative:
Bird is the Worm: How did this collective come about? Was there a defining moment that set this all in motion or was this a slow accretion of steady planning?
Jasmine De La Paz: It honestly started out as a small project that would help Tru Thoughts with our presence Stateside. The original idea was to work only with US based labels to cross-promote and help gain a US database. It naturally started to grow and gained a lot of attention from taste-makers, blogs, radio, etc.
We decided to keep the volumes going and work with a variety of labels from around the world
BitW: So you sort of became the de facto lightning rod as this project coalesced and expanded.
JD: Yes, exactly. I listen to all kinds of music, so it’s really a fun project for me to work with and get to know other labels
BitW: The Jazz Edition is actually the fifth volume of music… what brought about the decision to create a jazz edition?
JD: Jazz is my nickname and is a genre I love. Tru Thoughts has a few Jazz albums coming out this year so I thought it would be appropriate. I also want to see Jazz revive so was hoping this volume would get into the hands of listeners who are not familiar with Jazz or to open the minds of Jazz heads. Yes, there is definitely some cross over.
BitW: The internet age has provided resources for small jazz labels to get established and promote themselves, but as with any venture, new advances bring new problems. What are some of the obstacles that small jazz labels are encountering in today’s internet environment? And, really, non-jazz small labels, too.
JD: Well, of course, records are not selling like they used to… anyone can find a free download link on the internet. I think the important thing is to embrace the changes and not fight them. A lot of times someone can download a free album… but the fact that they are downloading your record in the first place is a good thing! There is sooo much music out there that the internet provides easier access to. A lot of time, whoever downloaded the illegal link is playing the music for friends. word of mouth is definitely important and is what generates a buzz.
BitW: From your perspective, what types of things are you seeing, generally speaking, small labels doing to successfully advance their causes? And, what has worked for your label specifically?
JD: Online content is very important… videos, live videos, mixes, free tracks, etc, but at the end of the day, the music speaks for itself. It’s also very important to have an ear to the ground. When I was working on the Jazz Edition, I visited a ton of Jazz label web-sites and I have to say a lot of them were horrible! A lot of times I couldn’t even find a way to listen to their music. So, it’s important to be on top of online trends… Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Spotify apps and playlists.
BitW: From your perspective, what types of things are you seeing specific labels doing that other labels, big and small, aren’t? For instance, the Jazzman Records label is definitely in a pretty small niche by re-issuing under-the-radar gems of older music, but also in occasionally releasing new jazz that floats their boat. What types of niches are seeing the other labels adopting, and what novel approaches are any of them utilizing?
JD: I feel that the most successful labels are releasing a broader range of Jazz. For example, Blue Note and Robert Glasper. There are a lot of people that will say the last RG album is not Jazz, but in my opinion the reason why Jazz is so beautiful is that it’s limitless. I feel more labels will be successful if they are open to new styles of “Jazz” that aren’t aren’t really traditional.
Have you heard of the label Brainfeeder?
JD: Brainfeeder is a small indie label based in LA, owned by Flying Lotus. They are known for releasing “electronic” music… but a lot of their releases are Jazz! Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Austin Peralta.. all Jazz cats. So they are releasing Jazz but are marketing it to a younger market as electronic.
BitW: I’m on the site now, and recognizing a bunch of those names.
BitW: Well, hey, let me push up one of my questions a bit earlier… speaking of marketing jazz to a younger crowd… when someone asks you why they should listen to modern jazz, what do you tell them? It’s a tougher question than it might seem, and I’m always surprised by how many of my jazz friends aren’t able to answer it too well.
JD: I think people should listen to modern jazz because most of it has progressed really nicely. You can hear musician and producer influences of old-school Jazz artists such as Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, etc. A lot of the musicians I work with have really taken in what they have learned, but have flipped the style into something new.
Here is an example… This is duo that studied jazz at the Berklee School of Music… they both love jazz and have taken what they have learned and studied and created a whole new sound using electronic elements [references Sonnymoon with a url].
BitW: Something from them [Sonnymoon] is on an earlier Label Love volume, isn’t it?
JD: Yes, “Blast Off.” A lot of their songs aren’t really “jazz,” but you can definitely hear the influences.
BitW: Have you received any feedback from individual artists and/or labels as far as these comps stimulating interest and getting some momentum going via press and sales?
JD: Yes! That is the main reason why I want to keep these comps going.
They do really well with blogs and radio. But a lot of times I have had artists say they received messages from new fans saying they discovered them from Label Love and downloaded all their music. So, it just goes to show that free music can lead to direct sales!
BitW: Well, you kind of led into my next question… Any plans to continue releasing a Label Love Jazz Edition, perhaps at regular intervals? Are any of the individual labels doing anything to build off this compilation? New labels showing interest in being a part of a new Label Love compilation?
JD: Yes I definitely would like to continue the Jazz Edition… perhaps a couple volumes later. Next time I would like to include some Latin Jazz. I have had so many labels contact me wanting to be apart of LL that I can’t fit them all in! Which means I’ll probably have to keep releasing more volumes!
A lot of labels use LL to launch campaigns as it’s a great way to introduce a track.
BitW: Did you get any resistance while putting this collective together? As AllAboutJazz download of the day editor, I definitely encounter a generational difference of opinion in giving away a track, even if the album’s pricing structure is such that no actual revenue is lost. Did you run into anything like that, or a different kind of resistance, to giving away a free album track?
JD: Yes, I did, actually… more so than ever with the Jazz volume. Some labels didn’t understand how they would benefit from offering a free download.
I feel a lot of really good Jazz labels are so stuck in the old ways that they don’t understand how to operate in the new digital internet-based age of the business.
Just a quick note: There are four other volumes, which expand into other genres of music. But they’re all free, and a great tool for discovering new music. You can find them all bundled together on this bandcamp page. You can also head from their to the bandcamp pages of the participating musicians to hear more of their music, and link to their sites (if I’ve reviewed the album, then you can also find links to various artist and retail sites in my review).