The Jazz.com Blog
October 15, 2008 · 1 comment
In the first part of this article, Bill Barnes looked at the career of George Klabin, the founder of the newly launched Resonance Records. In this second, and concluding installment, Barnes profiles the fledgling label—which, in a novel move, is run as part of a non-profit foundation—and its releases. T.G.
The Resonance label debuted in May, 2008 with pianist-composer John Beasley’s Letter to Herbie and the posthumous release of Gene Harris Quartet: Live in London. With the help of consulting director Rick Schultz, a former VP at MCA Records and Warner Brothers, the label was off and running. Its continuing mission: to seek out new talent and new material, to boldly swing where no one has swung before.
As George says, “It’s all about the music.” But not all forms of music—the focus is squarely on topnotch mainstream jazz. Strident, rule-breaking avant-garde protagonists and hip hop amalgamators need not apply; nor will you find the next Kenny G among the foundation’s roster of artists. The selection criteria have more to do with musicality than with marketability, choosing substance over style . . . and there is no undue emphasis on youth.
“We want to be known as a source of discovery for the great jazz musicians of all ages.” He is wary of getting Resonance involved with any musical flavor du jour, such as the recent spate of established artists blending world music with jazz. “The problem for me is that it isn’t what I want to do. Ultimately, this company is a reflection of my own tastes.”
But don’t call him a ‘new traditionalist.’ “Be careful about putting labels on me, or anyone,” he says. “I just want to make the best mainstream recordings possible, featuring extraordinary performers.” In this way he hopes to avoid the typical fate of a genre which some feel has had too long a shelf life. “We’re choosing the crème of the cream—incredibly talented virtuosic musicians.”
A prime example: Andreas Öberg, a veritable guitar Godzilla from Sweden who made his American debut with My Favorite Guitars (Resonance Records RCD-1002). In the wings there’s the greatly anticipated tribute to Oscar Peterson by the astounding Romanian keyboard artist, Marian Petrescu, recently heard on Öberg’s gorgeous album. Future releases include flautist Lori Bell, pianist Tamir Hendelman (also featured on My Favorite Guitars) and Greta Matassa, a phenomenal vocalist from San Francisco. Resonance artists all share one trait: their passion for the music. “I want Resonance to be the place to go for exciting, passionate, great art.” George is emphatic on that point. “Passion is what’s lacking in many peoples’ lives right now. Passion is what’s going to draw them in,” he says.
One of the things that separate the music of Resonance from the rest of the lowing herd of ‘indie’ labels is the quality of the end product. One listen and it’s immediately clear that there is something different going on here. Klabin has become a master at capturing the nuances of performance, with a knack for utilizing the latest technology without becoming its willing victim. His mastering succeeds where many fail—taking the “IT” out of digital. What you have left are crystal-clear, gimmick-free recordings, with the warmth of live performances. He makes it clear that there are no throw-away vanity tracks or fillers on Resonance albums. “My values come from the seventies, where there was the attention to detail,” George is quick to emphasize. “Every cut of every record we produce is treated the same.”
This clarity and polish of the recordings have prompted some to compare Resonance to Creed Taylor’s CTI label in the early seventies. Packaging is an essential element at Resonance and a few of the CDs even include free high-quality DVDs of the featured artist in performance, produced by their studio chief and video director, Pierre Paul, a producer with over twenty years of experience. With such production values, this label may be well on its way to becoming the CTI of the twenty-first century.
But can such a concept survive, facing such tough economic conditions? If George Klabin has his way, it will. He points to the growing number of jazz enthusiasts in Europe, Asia and Latin America. “We need to find all the people who love mainstream jazz and network those people together,” he says. “I believe that you need to get down to the trenches and find people who’ll buy small, a few albums at a time. Concentrate on smaller pockets of loyal mainstream jazz fans, all over the world.”
Starting such an ambitious project in this unsettled artistic climate is a bold move, but this is a man who is no stranger to challenge. According to George, “There are two choices in life—love and fear—and we all have to take responsibility for our actions.” It’s obvious that the folks at Resonance Records love the music and have conquered their fears for the future. Their efforts should resonate with anyone who is passionate about the art of jazz.
This blog entry was posted by Bill Barnes.