All-In-Music Service

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is the name of the company my wife and myself founded in 2010, after my contract as an employee of Universal Music Group International was not renewed. Universal then offered to become our first client and we made an agreement to work for them as jazz consultants – basically continuing to work with the artists I had signed to them in the previous years, plus bring some new acts or other established ones, if they were available. As the deal was initially for 2 years, I thought about what else I could possibly do with the company – and the role as mediator between artists and labels, agents and managers, agents and festivals etc.. did make sense to me, as I have very good connections in all aspects of the jazz music business. Now, after almost two years and looking back, it seems that the idea wasn’t that great after all – I have been approached by many artists, established and new and have tried to find the right label for them,sending music to labels which in terms of music or philosophy I thought might fit. Let’s say I did send out an album to 10 labels all over Europe and as I can see via the internet whether the music box had been opened or not, I checked regularly. On average, out of 10 labels approached, 2 opened the box and listened to the music, the other 8 didn’t even bother to do that. Out of the 2, one would reply. Such is the state of the business – labels don’t even listen to music they get send, don’t bother to answer or built relations and just try to survive and make the records they want to do. Nothing wrong with the last part – at least then send a mail and say that you don’t want to have music send to you! Not that agents are better – same story, in most cases I didn’t even get an answer. It’s tough out there, but especially because of that the jazz community should stick together – it is difficult to break new acts, more so than ever. It is difficult to sell records, as there is no shelf space for one of the few genres whose audience actually wants to buy CD’s! I am glad I could make a few deals, but as a business model it doesn’t work.

I am thankful that Branford Marsalis’ manager asked me if I was interested in coordinating his European jazz touring – as I love Branford as a person and as a musician, the decision was easy – and I had the contacts to fast create a network of agents around Europe to make it happen .. and it works. Now we are as well booking James Carter and will book Jane Monheit, once we have the next album done.

With Universal we still did release a bunch of great records, including Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 2, John Scofield’s ballad album A Moments’ Peace etc. and are preparing a few new ones for later this year and early 2013. The A&R part has always been my favourite part of the work there and being able to focus on it, has been good. As well as working from home, together with my wife Yolanda, who makes sure that the finances and all administrative stuff is dealt with efficiently.

Soon the two years of the consultancy will be over, but Universal has already signalled that they want to continue, even so in a different form. We’ll meet and talk and we will have to see if the proposal makes sense to our company, as we need a certain income to keep going, which at the moment the touring alone wouldn’t be able to bring in. These are interesting and challenging times for everyone who is in the music business and especially for the small independents, whether they are labels, pr companies, A&R driven or touring agents, but I am confident that we’ll find a way to continue what we love most – working with creative musicians.

I’ll keep you posted.    Keep swingin’.

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The Lady …

… sings. And how! Flanked by 2 acoustic guitars, cello and bass, she is sitting in the middle of the half-circle and plays guitar and sings her own songs, just recently released on her new album 11 Noviembre. The Lady in question is Silvia Perez Cruz, on of the most exciting new Spanish singers – unique, bold and touching. Her influences are Fado and Flamenco and other local folk music from Spain and Portugal.The album is challenging, but worth listened through again and again. The live show is easier, simpler and more emotional. When she sings Iglesias (based on Moon River, which she refers to at one point in the middle of the song), for me one of the best songs on the new record, it is haunting, beautiful and full of surprises. Same for Diluvio Universal and some of the other tracks – then ending the show in a duo with Javier Colina, Spain’s best jazz bass player – swinging and having fun. A unique talent with a great voice and a personal approach to her song writing and performing. 20120411174625_64

 

… plays a mean bass, sings and runs a band! And gives us a show that swings and has all the hall marks of a great artist. In this case I am talking about Esperanza Spalding, who performed in Madrid last weekend to a full house at Joy Eslava. And her audience loved it – singing along with the better known songs of her new album Radio Music Society.

Honestly, I am not a big fan of the records, but the live show I did really enjoy – she has a great band and they can swing (which they should do more often) and funk and she is a great, charming performer. Her voice is used well, even so it seems at times a bit flat, but it sounds good in the middle range she uses to great effect. Her song writing is really good and the arrangements for the band superb. I had a great time – with a bit less talking and more big band power it would have been even better. Finally I understand what the hype is all about – a great musician, composer and performer, who knows how to get her audience and make them dance – that she is young and beautiful surely helps, but it is the musicality that really counts here and she’s got a lot of that!

Without Walls

Dorantes is a pianist, whose background is foremost Flamenco, but who is as well versed in European Classical music and jazz. Yesterday he did a little showcase in Madrid’s Cata Studios, just for media and retail and it was simply amazing. I had heard the new album Sin Muros, but the short live show was absolutely beyond – he is a great pianist, a fantastic improviser, who has the sensibility and emotions of Flamenco and still swings like hell and in-between has little beautiful melodies, reminiscent of classical motifs. Full of ideas, full of surprising changes, but logical in a sense of music and creating something new and exciting.

The album has a bunch of guest performers, including the great French bass player Renaud Garcia-Fons on Sin Muros Ni Candados, the fantastic singer Carmen Linares and Noa on one track each, as well as the late Enrique Morente on Refugio, one of the highlights of the album and probably Enrique’s final recording session. The song, based on a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca, is very haunting, emotional and a great vehicle for Morente’s unique voice.

Sin Muros ends with a piece called Ante El Espejo, a ‘free’ work in 4 movements for solo piano – and it basically shows all the facets of this great artist: his roots and inspirations, his stylistic class and great improvisational skills. Music without Walls – honest and unique and crossing stylistic borders as if they are not there. Really special!

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Made Possible

Last week The Bad Plus performed a late night show at the beautiful Teatro Lara in the centre of Madrid. Despite a starting time of 23:00 hours, the place was almost full and lots of media could be seen. Once on stage the Plus started with ‘Pound For Pound’, a true beauty of a song and continued mostly with either repertoire from their last CD ‘Never Stop’ or with new songs, which will be feature on the new disc they expect to release in the fall. One of these new tracks is ‘Re-Elect That’, a great Ethan Iverson composition, another one is ‘Wolf Out’, which on the night they dedicated to their friend Wulf, which I thought was a very nice gesture, as it is an amazing and powerful, drum driven piece.

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This trio is so tight, has such a unique approach to their music, powerful and subtle at the same time, sometimes soft and almost vulnerable, then again almost sounding like a full orchestra and rocking in the best sense of the word. Always challenging themselves and their listeners, but making them smile or open their eyes in astonishment. The show ended with 2 encores and a standing ovation – long past midnight and then the trio started to sign CD’s for waiting fans, despite having to get up at 6:30 am to go to the next gig …

And their new material is again a step forward and some of the best music they have recorded. By the way, the title of the new album is: Made Possible.

Be Good

I had some great time off with my wife and my mother of 84 years, visiting us in Madrid – time for family and people who are important in my life. Time to talk and visit exhibitions, places we like and time for good food and drink. Time well spent.

After focusing a bit on the private side of my life, back to music and to a few new records and a show I recently saw/heard. Be Good is the title of singer Gregory Porter’s second album and good it is indeed! The title song is simply amazing and so are most of his compositions; I love his version of Nat Adderley’s Work Song as well and especially the final song on the album, the perfect ending for an incredible record – an a capella (night cap) version of God bless the child! One of the most promising jazz singers around.

Conversations with Christian is a collection of duos Mr. McBride recorded with his musical mentors and friends, including Hank Jones and Dr. Billy Taylor, who both didn’t see the release of this album, as they passed away before the recording was issued. On this record Christian really shows how versatile a bass player he is – from African rhythms to classical music, pop, some fun jazz duets and a bit of Latin, he is at home in every genre. He listens and then adds what he has to say about the music – that makes it work when he plays with either Sting or Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roy Hargrove or Chick Corea. A gem.

We all miss Esbjorn Svensson, there is no doubt about it. While on tour in Australia in 2007 the band went in to the Studio 301 and recorded some jams and tracks, out of which they released the album Leucocyte in 2008. 301, as the new release is titled, is more material from this session and fully deserves to be listened to as a proper e.s.t release. The material chosen is strong and unique, emotional and challenging – typical for the trio. If the rest of the material from these days in the studio is as strong as this one, there should be at least another record waiting for us … and rumour says that there is a some solo material by Esbjorn as well to come out in the future. 301 is a timely reminder of what we are really missing and maybe to what unknown boundaries this trio could have gone. Highly recommended!

Medeski, Martin & Wood made a stop on their current tour in Madrid. I hadn’t seen the guys for a while, the last time actually with John Scofield a few years back and looked forward to the show – and they did not disappoint me! For someone who came to get funked up, yeah, there was obviously some of that, but there was as well a lot of free improvisations, throwing in some references of own and other works and then taking off in all directions of groove. As a trio they are so tight and can react quickly to anything anyone of them is doing – often one could see John Medeski just nodding his head or raise his hand to conduct a change in the music. His playing was immaculate – piano (of which I would have liked to hear a bit more) and Hammond equally under his control, sometimes powerful, sometimes quiet and emotional.

Radiolarens I, II and III were there last proper releases of the group (and the box set combining the three records plus live material and a DVD and vinyl) and should be heard by all MMW fans. Substantial recordings! All three guys have been busy lately with their own projects, but hopefully there will be a new album soon.