NOT ONLY IS THIS TRUE ABOUT JAZZ BEING PERFORMED, BUT IT ALSO APPLIES TO RECORDED MUSIC. ZEV FELDMAN, WHILE NOT MAKING A LIVING AS A MUSICIAN, ACTUALLY SUPPLIES US WITH SOME OF THE GREATEST IMPROVISATIONS MUSIC HAS TO OFFER. HE SCOURS THE STREETS AND HOMES ACROSS THE WORLD, LOOKING FOR UNDISCOVERED RECORDINGS BY THE LIKES OF WES MONTGOMERY AND BILL EVANS, AS WELL AS DIGGING IN CAVES FOR PREVIOUSLY RELEASED ALBUMS FROM GENERATIONS PAST THAT HAVE NOT SCENE THE LIGHT OF DAY IN THE DIGITAL ERA.
JUST THIS PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, FELDMAN HAS BEEN ABLE TO RELEASE THE LAST RECORDED CONCERT OF JOHN COLTRANE, A RARE GIG WITH ONE OF BILL EVAN’S LESSER KNOWN TRIOS, A FAR RANGING GIG WITH CHARLES LLOYD AND THE VERY FIRST RECORDINGS OF WES MONTGOMERY.
BESIDES THAT, HE HAS RESUSCITATED THE 70S HARD BOP LABEL XANADU RECORDS AND IS IN THE PROCESS OF RE-RELEASING SOME VINTAGE MATERIAL BY THE LIKES OF BARRY HARRIS, KENNY BARRON AND DEXTER GORDON.
WE RECENTLY HAD A CHAT WITH ZEV, AND HE GAVE US SOME INSIGHT INTO HIS MOTIVATION AND MEANS OF DISCOVERY.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH REISSUES AND HISTORICAL ALBUMS?
The Xanadu series is the first reissue series we’ve done. I’ve always been involved, like when I was at Concord (Records)I got to do some project assistance where I was credited with some of the Keepnews and RVG Series albums that they put out. But I’ve just been buying this music, selling it, collecting it, celebrating and loving it for so many years.
With the unknown stuff, it’s funny. My boss, George Klabin at Resonance Records has really opened the doors and made a lot of it possible. When I started working at the label in 2009, I had suggested that we try and find historical recordings to put out. We could tell that some of the releases that we had already done (like the Gene Harris and Scott LaFaro albums) were doing okay.
We wanted to put some focus into releasing not just reissues but new things. So, the first release experience for me has to be Echoes of Indiana. We started working on it in 2010, which were tapes of Wes Montgomery, the first newly-discovered music in over 40 years.
In that process we worked really hard and I pushed create not just a new cd but also a book attached with great information and reference materials. It put us on the map. That and Bill Evans Live at Top of the Gate, which came out that year.
As those records excelled for us, George was open to more considerations for other projects. So we then began to really try and find things that were special. Not reissues, but new things, and we’ve continued that mantra for awhile now and it’s been very exciting for us. We love this music, and it’s a way for us to do projects that celebrate their legacies.
I’m really thrilled; it’s coming at a time when the music business as a whole for all of us has been really challenging. It’s nice to be able to do put of these projects out and have them be recognized.
HOW DO YOU FIND THESE ARCANE RECORDINGS?
A lot of it is just relationship building and inquiring with people. I’ll reach out to artist’s estates.
First of all, it’s got to be an artist, and something that will work for our company. Different labels have different models, but I’m constantly asking questions, trying to find out if there are tapes available. I’m asking colleagues, peers, musician…I’m just engaging in dialogue.
I gotta tell you: it’s not even work! It’s just personal interest for me. I wake up and it’s not like even a job. It’s really like a dream.
There’s a lot of unpleasant stuff to do, just day to day running up with a lot of work. Yet, we’re thankful that we have a great team at Resonance. Not just myself, but our staff of Heidi Kalison, Zak Shelby-Szyszko, Alejandro Carillo and Fran Gala that do a lot of work with me and George. Between us we make up a small group, but we make it work. It’s all because of George Klabin.
As a result of my having these opportunities for these releases, it’s gotten us some attention. I was very lucky; a few years back I started working with a label in Barcelona, Spain called Elemental Music. It’s owned by Distri Jazz, which distributes the majority of jazz in the world, at least from the independent side, but even labels like ECM.
They offered me to start a label to do projects for them. For instance, this Art Pepper (Live at Fat Tuesday’s) project came from them with some tapes. They did a deal directly with Laurie (Pepper, Art Pepper’s widow) and they asked me to put it together. It’s been great; I’m really thrilled.
I just want to do more things. I’m having the time of my life working on these projects. It’s on a personal level. As I said before, it’s not even like work although there is a lot of effort that goes into it.
We drive ourselves nuts. I’m always trying to make the projects as good as they can be and make all of the right decisions.
DO YOU EVER GET RESISTANCE FROM THE ARTISTS, ESTATES OR FAMILY?
Normally when I’m reaching out to them, it’s to offer them a payment on something. I’d like to think that for the most part that there hasn’t been much opposition. The people are supporting it. We’re doing things the right way at Resonance and Elemental. It comes with working with the estates and with the artists.
THE CHARLES LLOYD ALBUM MANHATTAN STORIES FORM 1965 IS AMAZING. DID LLOYD GIVE YOU ANY FEEDBACK ON IT?
We worked together. He and his wife Dorothy are co-producers on that project. He loved it. He told me that when we were at the Monterrey Jazz Festival in 2014 that he dug it, and that sent me over the moon.
I felt that when we did that album that we needed to do one of the best packages that we could. I felt that he deserved it as an artist and that there was a story to tell. My boss was willing to do that, so we told the story as best as we could. So, we’re very happy with the way that it turned out. We’re very proud of that project.
WAS THERE MUCH DIFFICULTY WITH THE COLTRANE AT TEMPLE RECORDING?
The Coltrane project that we did was a partnership with Universal Music Group. We had conversations about it with them. They came to us because of our reputation, so we were happy about that.
THE XANADU SERIES IS A WHOLE DIFFERENT GIG, AS IT FOCUSES ON REISSUES. WHAT IS YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH THEM?
For the Xanadu records, you can watch the video that we put together which really details the story. But this was a catalogue that languished out of print, and we had an opportunity to partner with the rights holders. In this case it was with The Orchard, and it was for to license the rights to 25 wonderful titles that we wanted to reintroduce to the public. Some of them had never been on cd before.
(Label founder) Don Schlitten is one of my heroes. I had a meeting back several years ago with my colleague Jordi Soley. My co-founder of Elemental Music. We were trying to identify catalogues that were out of print that needed to be reissued.
I started to tell Jordi a story about recently meeting Don and getting acquainted with him, and he stopped me and said, “Hey, let’s look at Xanadu!” It opened up a whole conversation.
It took us a couple of years, but we put that deal together. And finally the first releases have rolled out and we’ll go through spring.
WHAT’S YOUR FEELING ABOUT PUTTING OUT REISSUES AS OPPOSED TO PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED MATERIAL?
This older music is just incredible. It had been out of print; it needed to be available for people to listen to and purchase again. For instance, this Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron is an album that should never have gone out of print. Jimmy Heath’s Picture of Heath is another cornerstone in our catalogue that we have featured in the series. Hopefully they’ll now stay available for a long time. These are cherished recordings from another era, and it celebrates Don Schlitten’s vision. Getting this music to be produced and released during a time when a lot of fusion, disco and R&B was influencing jazz. But there was no doubt about it; these were “straight-ahead” sessions and just classic albums that I’m glad are finally being reissued.
AS YOU SAID, THESE ALBUMS WERE MADE WHEN EVERYONE WAS PLUGGING IN TO ELECTRONICS, AND VERY FEW WERE HANGING ON TO STRICTLY ACOUSTIC JAZZ.
You’re right, one of the only other labels that was doing acoustic jazz at the time was Bee Hive Records. Jim and Susan Neuman out of Chicago did an excellent job as well. And, like Bee Hive, Xanadu was a mom and pop operation. It was a husband and wife run record company with great artists, great music and also a great era. I’m so happy that we saved this music and brought it back out again.
ARE THERE ANY OF THESE THAT YOU WANT TO HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT ON YOUR GRAVESTONE?
I’m really proud of all of them.
ANY HINTS OF MORSELS THAT MIGHT BE UPCOMING?
We have several new projects coming out in 2016. Music by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, Larry Young, Shirley Horn, Sarah Vaughan, Wes Montgomery…and that’s just in the first part of the year!
We’re continuing to chip away. We’re excited to be in the final production of several of these albums. We’re excited about 2016 in order to bring more of this great music to light.
IF YOU’RE A JAZZ FAN, ALBUMS FROM FREDDIE HUBBARD AND SCOTT LAFARO FROM FELDMAN’S RESONANCE LABEL ARE LIKE MANNA FROM HEAVEN, WHILE REISSUES FROM XANADU THAT INCLUDE LUSCIOUS OBSCURITIES FROM AL COHN AND JIMMY HEATH WILL TAKE YOU TO AN ERA WHEN THE JAZZ MASTERS RULED THE WORLD FROM AFAR.
*photo by Philip “Birks” Gillespie