JAZZ LEGACY PRODUCTIONS, A NEW JAZZ LABEL FOUNDED BY BASSIST JOHN LEE AND DISTRIBUTED BY ALLEGRO, LAUNCHES WITH FOUR NEW RELEASES
FEATURING VETERANS CYRUS CHESTNUT, HEATH BROTHERS AND STEVE DAVIS, AND THE DEBUT OF SAXOPHONIST SHAREL CASSITY
JLP’S MISSION IS TO FILL A JAZZ VOID BY RECORDING THE UNDERDOCUMENTED AND UNDOCUMENTED
THE CHESTNUT AND HEATH CDS STREET AUGUST 4; DAVIS AND CASSITY CDS ARRIVE SEPTEMBER 8
At a time when major jazz labels are shrinking their coverage and signings, and the recording industry at large is enduring an erosion of sales, it comes as a pleasant surprise to discover that a new independent label committed to jazz is on the launching pad to fill a valuable-and historical-void. Welcome to the New York-based Jazz Legacy Productions, which celebrates the jazz heritage and the music’s future with its first four CDs, which will be distributed by Allegro:
Release date: August 4
Cyrus Chestnut – Spirit
Heath Brothers – Endurance
Release date: September 8
Steve Davis – Eloquence
Sharel Cassity – Relentless
“There are so many great artists nowadays, and the only ones it seems who are getting deals are the vocalists,” says veteran bassist John Lee, who founded JLP and is piloting the artistic direction of the label. “So many artists who had deals before haven’t been re-signed, which means there’s important music that’s going undocumented. This is a great moment in jazz history, and it would be tragic if that music gets lost.”
JLP’s goal is to make the recording model be cost-effective as well as offer artists attractive deals so they can sell their own albums. “We’re stressing the importance of keeping the recording costs down, and we’re charging the artists a lot less money to buy back their own CDs,” says Lee. “Most musicians these days are doing well by selling their albums at their gigs.”
For every three established artists JLP records, there will be one newcomer. In the first set of CDs being released, the upstart is Oklahoma-born, New York-based saxophonist Sharel Cassity, who mixes originals with standards on Relentless, which features pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Dwayne Burno, drummer E.J. Strickland and such guests as trombonist Michael Dease and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. It marks her recording debut.
Cyrus Chestnut’s latest CD, Spirit, is an inspirational album of hymns, spirituals and some pop-oriented tunes like “Wade in the Water” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It’s a follow-up to his Blessed Quietness album, released on Atlantic Records in 1996. The Heath Brothers’Endurance features Jimmy Heath and Tootie Heath, and is the first recording since their brother Percy passed away in 2005. The CD is dedicated to him and represents, according to Jimmy, a tale of where the brothers have been and where they’re going. The set comprises several Jimmy compositions as well as a Brazilian piece and standards. Trombonist Steve Davis offers standards and originals on Eloquence, which features Roy Hargrove and Hank Jones as guests.
As for the one-word titles of each release, Lee says that’s part of JLP’s mission to brand the label. In addition, each album cover is photographed by Thomas Haynes. “We wanted people to be able to see our releases and identify them immediately as JLP,” says Lee, who adds that the label plans to release eight albums each year. Future signings include the sextet One for All (including Eric Alexander and Steve Davis), Jazz Master pianist Randy Weston, trombonist Michael Dease and young guitar phenom Yotam Silberstein.
Lee, who appears as a guest bassist on three tracks of Davis’ album, says, “Eventually I will be on the label too.” He’s currently a member of the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band. The Philadelphia native who’s based in the New York City area has an impressive resume that includes early ’70s gigs with Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders before joining Max Roach’s group in 1972. He also performed in Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House, worked with Gary Bartz and Gerry Brown, and in 1981 joined Gillespie’s all-star touring band.