High Notes: This Year Was Terrible, but at Least Local Jazz Labels Are Thriving (via Village Voice)

In the last year, a missionary-like zeal has taken hold of a handful of independent jazz labels dotting the five boroughs. Some, like Harlem’s Biophilia, are run out of apartments. Others operate in modest offices. What they have most in common, other than a loose sense of a shared genre, is intense dedication to putting out music — despite jazz being a niche and album sales being on the decline. “I felt I had to do this from just a moral perspective,” Fabian Almazan, the founder of Biophilia, tells the Voice. “The financial risk is worth it. I find it rewarding and grounding.”

These labels aren’t new — Almazan founded his slowly in 2011 and will ramp it up in 2017 — but 2016 was a banner year for a couple. A record released last year on the superlative Pi Recordings, Henry Threadgill’s In for a Penny, In for a Pound, won the Pulitzer Prize for music in April. Jana Herzen, founder of the Harlem-based Motéma Music, says this year has been one of their best. “I feel like we hit our stride recently,” she says. “I’m not going to say I’m making a whole lot of money, but the label is definitely thriving.”

Other indie labels in Manhattan — HighNote/Savant, Palmetto, to name a couple — sit closer, like Motéma does, to straight-ahead jazz. But Brooklyn’s AUM Fidelity, Northern Spy, and Yeah Yeah Records, for instance, tend to veer toward the serrated edges. And like Biophilia, many of these were founded by jazz musicians. Almazan is a pianist best known for playing in Terence Blanchard’s band; last year the inventive 25-year-old saxophonist Kevin Sun launched Endectomorph Music in Brooklyn.

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