For the last couple of years jazz music has a new record label that is already generating a lot of buzz in New York City and around the world. The Big Apple being the epicenter of diverse culture and is the nucleus of many music styles, the art of recording new live music has become expensive and a art that’s becoming as extinct as an LP. Venues like the Blue Note, the Village Vanguard, the Jazz Gallery and Dizzy’s are some of many places where the music is performed, created, and recorded for patrons of all forms of jazz. Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village has been on the cusp of breaking out as one of the new major players on the jazz scene. One, being that the club holds and maintains a aura paying tribute to the major jazz clubs during the 1950’s and 60’s; providing a rustic and gritty presence where music is the many and only mission. Two, allow musicians internationally known or those just beginning their career a place to play in relaxed environment that’s open until the wee hours of the night. Musicians can play and jam as they like, something that many jazz clubs are missing.
In 2009 Spike Wilner, owner of Smalls, decided he wanted to record some the great musicians that have played at the club for over 15 years. So, Wilner formed SmallsLive, the record label that’s part of the vibrant Smalls brand. To much success, the label has cranked out over 20 releases over the last two years. Artists ranging from vocalist Cyrille Aimee to straight ahead musicians like Jim Rotondi, Seamus Blake, Steve Davis, and Kevin Hays. Even the artwork and CD cover insets are extremely impressive. They use a all-paper format called the four panel eco-pack which uses no plastic. The label also is aggressively selling the recordings via digital downloads on the label’s website as well as i Tunes. So far, the discs are currently being sold in Europe and other parts of the world.
Last week I attended the CD release and label launch party for Smalls artist pianist Bruce Barth who’s latest release is proof that live jazz music isn’t dead. Small Live founder Spike Wilner has allowed the jazz club to continue to thrive by allowing these musicians speak musically while making it economically affordable for jazz fans to come and support the artist via the new CDs as well the jazz club. Wilner adds “Smalls Live is a direct need to continue what the major record labels used to record back in the day. Have an environment where the musicians can create those glorious albums that Trane and Monk recorded at the Vanguard and the Five Spot back in the day. Smalls Jazz Club has that same vibe as those same clubs but better.” And I must agree with him.
Pianist, accompanist, composer, and producer Bruce Barth’s impact on the jazz scene has been long and fruitful ride for the last 25 years. Barth’s track record has proven that he’s not only become one of the most well respected and demanded players playing on well over one hundred recordings and movie soundtracks, he’s recorded 12 solo projects including his latest: “Bruce Barth Trio: Live at Smalls,” on the Smalls Live Records label. The trio features Rudy Royston on bass and Vicente Archer on bass. Recorded at the famed Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, this was a project that Bruce wanted to record centering around a trio setting.
What I enjoy most on Bruce’s latest outing is that he reaches out and plays some innovative and fresh compositions. Also, the new record takes me back to those great trio recordings of past with artists like Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, and Oscar Peterson, whose emphasis was placed on the entire trio verses the soloist. His trio is killer and both Rudy and Vicente add new life and vigor to Bruce’s music.
Bruce hails from Pasadena, California and began playing piano at age five. He picked up playing by ear early during his career and found it a major progression in his learning and playing style. Throughout has teens he studied privately but it was his older brother who turned him on to pianist/vocalist Mose Allison that really sparked his interest in jazz music.
Upon graduating from high school he was accepted to the New England Conservatory where he had the privilege of studying and mentoring with the legendary Jaki Byard, George Russell, and Fred Hersch. When he finished college, he moved to New York where he continued his education musically playing with the likes of Nancy Wilson, Freddie Hubbard, Nat Adderley, Stanley Turrentine, James Moody, Grady Tate, and Slide Hampton.
Today Bruce continues to play in many groups including his trio, the Bruce Barth Septet, the Steve Wilson Quartet, the Terell Stafford Quintet, and accompanies Luciana Souza and Karrin Allyson.
Smalls Jazz Club is located in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City at 183 West 10th Street. For upcoming artist showtimes visit them on the web at www.smallsjazzclub.com. To order any of the Smalls Live releases including the latest Bruce Barth Trio disc, visit them on the web at www.smallslive.com.
Jazz music needed a new and bold approach of how the music and artists are going to be marketed and how it’s presented. Smalls as a club and now new indie label operates under a new business model that doesn’t follow trends nor is about just making a profit while selling out. Spike Wilner clearly understands the state of where this music has gone and is going against the grain to position the label globally as a major player in the world of jazz.
The Revolution Will Be Televised,
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