Independent Jazz Gets a Shot in the Arm

It's been a tough year for some of the audiophile record labels, as witnessed by the demise in late November of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (see previous story). The shock of MoFi's sudden departure even prompted Kimber Kable's Ray Kimber to fire off an e-mail to everyone within virtual reading range, urging them to buy a few audiophile CDs and LPs right now, before it's too late.

So in light of the precarious path many audiophile labels travel, it's always welcome news when one talks of branching out. Last week, Reference Recordings, known internationally as an independent classical and jazz label, announced that it is creating a distribution outlet for artist-owned labels: Independent Productions from Reference Recordings. The company says that IPRR's initial releases will be jazz CDs from West Coast jazz pioneer and drummer Eddie Marshall, in his debut as a leader, and two projects from Bay Area tenor player Anton Schwartz.

Reference Recordings and Independent Productions sales director Janice Mancuso says that, "in the current indy climate, with distributors tightening up their lists of labels, it is even more difficult for artist-owned imprints to get representation. We feel we're offering a service the market needs. Working with Allegro, we've identified projects where we can be the 'foster parents' to artists whose musical abilities are well established and who have strong business sense but are new to running their own labels. Internationally, we can open the doors to several large touring markets for jazz artists and give our importers more American jazz to sell in their territories. It can be a winning situation for everybody."

Reference says that North American distribution will be fulfilled through Allegro Corporation of Portland, Oregon. Internationally, projects will at first be offered through select Reference importers. Additionally, the company says that distribution partners outside RR's current roster will be sought to provide optimum jazz exposure worldwide.

Slated for North American release on February 15 are Eddie Marshall's debut, Holy Mischief, and Anton Schwartz's second CD, The Slow Lane. Schwartz's debut release, When Music Calls, will also be available through the new distribution scheme.