The jazz labels on a winning streak

Most indie jazz labels go through peaks and troughs. Some go on hiatus altogether and quite a few UK indie-jazz labels this year have been very quiet or inactive. With more and more acts going DIY and putting out their own labels or going to …

Published: 30 Nov 2022. Updated: 59 days.

Most indie jazz labels go through peaks and troughs. Some go on hiatus altogether and quite a few UK indie-jazz labels this year have been very quiet or inactive. With more and more acts going DIY and putting out their own labels or going to production outfits, not vanity labels as such often ultra professional operations but where bright eyed and bushy tailed rootie-tooterers parting with their hard earned moolah pay for even the paper clips - the ones that seem to work best are the labels who have been around longest, sport very good graphics - if you think this doesn't matter look at the often risible covers circulating on Bandcamp every day - and reliably excellent sound quality, again a factor that matters given that not every young artist if any at all have state of the art equipment to hand.

The one factor which since streaming took over that is relatively new is that label identity doesn't matter half as much as artist moniker and album title for searching purposes. Major label owned or distributed imprints often dominate 'best-of' lists given that pro-active squadrons of publicists contact journalists more than DIY operators can. But their grip on taste ruthlessly exercised by restricting supply of promos is not as strong as it was given that music journalism is far more de-centralised than it was in the days of the inkies and promos are easy to find online.

Take a look at our three lists this year for more insights as to the patchwork of a picture. Firstly in the overall best-of labels who rose to the top there are Red Hook, a tiny indie registered in Ireland and the creation of a former ECM producer with only a couple of releases out so far, both excellent; ACT, a very professional multi-release German indie that nevertheless can be very hit and miss in terms of setting the agenda; Cellar Live, a Canadian indie which champions unfashionable but by its excellent work this year approaching fashionable retro bop and straightahead styles; the Universal-owned Blue Note and (in most countries) distributed ECM; Steele, a US label completely new to us this year; Rune Grammofon, a Norwegian label that has an acclaimed art-jazz reputation akin to ECM's; Italian indie CAM Jazz who don't put out many records but most seem to resonate; and Courtney Pine's own label Destin-E distributed for years by the UK's leading jazz distributor - Proper.

The picture in vocals includes more artist operated labels (Afrasia, Twanky, Blues & Greens), the Universal owned Verve, the Warners owned Nonesuch and UK indie Edition. While on the UK scene you have a label operated as the recording arm of the London Symphony Orchestra, the Gilles Peterson owned Brownswood and regional UK indies Efpi (north-west of England) and Stoney Lane (midlands) among the mix plus the artist owned Banger Factory.

So there are many paths to getting recordings out. There is no right or wrong way of doing it. The main thing is for artists to know what they want out of their release. And as for getting any profile beyond the great unwashed trainspotterati usually taken far too much for granted who reliably add to their record collections on a weekly basis - as Ronnie Scott used to say surveying a small turn-out in the club ''let's hold hands and contact the living.''

The Eldica Records shop in Dalston, photo: Hackney Co-Operative Developments

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Reasons to be cheerful part 3 looking ahead to 2023 - ace James Brandon Lewis Eye of I tracks to savour

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL: ONE, what a moving version of the Donny Hathaway classic 'Someday We'll All Be Free' (Extension of a Man, Atco, 1973) from free-jazz tenor titan James Brandon Lewis the track featuring cornetist Kirk Knuffke. TWO, The …

Published: 30 Nov 2022. Updated: 2 months.

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REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL:

ONE, what a moving version of the Donny Hathaway classic 'Someday We'll All Be Free' (Extension of a Man, Atco, 1973) from free-jazz tenor titan James Brandon Lewis the track featuring cornetist Kirk Knuffke.

TWO, The serene ache of 'The Blues Still Blossoms' so open in the setting and a feeling so free is fresh as a daisy.

THREE, the jaw dropping rock-out of 'Fear Not' is a bolt from the blue.

Drawn from Eye of I out on Anti in February 2023 - an album that also includes The Messthetics (guitarist Anthony Pirog, Fugazi's Joe Lally and Brendan Canty and Shahzad Ismaily on Moog synthesizer).

John Coltrane's soprano, Adie Celentano

Beuno Colino

Reasons to be cheerful, part three

(Ian Dury/Chaz Jankel/Davey Payne -1979)