Clean Feed

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Focus on Clean Feed records

[UPDATED: with a beautiful video of Dre Hocevar’s ensemble—his two recent releases on Clean Feed are excellent and highly recommended] It’s easy to look back at Blue Note records and see how important it was. The label put out dozens and dozens of classic albums from some of the giants of jazz, and the brilliant graphic design of the album covers was an essential component in creating the idea of cultural coolness—it was a brand avant la lettre.

Less popularly known is the vast range of the music. Beyond hard bop, Blue Note issued important avant-garde albums from Cecil TaylorTaylor, Ornette Coleman, and Eric Dolphy, and nurtured the various creative explorations of Jackie MacClean, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, and Thelonious Monk. Blue Note was the contemporary mainstream and it also was a place where the leading edge of the music could be heard.

Now the label is mostly a husk, a brand with only a tenuous grasp (on an individual basis), with the most current ideas in contemporary jazz. In terms of quality, aesthetic values, creativity, and even the idea of a brand, they’ve been superseded by a small label from Portugal with an outsized presence in jazz: Clean Feed.

Clean Feed is the leading contemporary jazz label—this is not a put down of other important labels like ECM and Pi Recordings, instead it’s an acknowledgement of where Clean Feed is in terms of style, and the quantity of fine releases they produce. At close to 50 CDs in 2015, quantity does become it’s own quality, and that output is unique on the contemporary scene.

They do this with a staff of only four. Committed to the music, they live off their work, which also includes curating festivals like the Portalegre JazzFest, Rescaldo, Culturgest, and, together with Bogdan Benigar, the Ljubljana festival. In turn, these festivals create live recordings for the label.

Clean Feed’s aesthetic is at the vanguard of contemporary jazz (not the mainstream that is perpetualing recycling mid-1960’s hard bop arrangements, harmonies, and rhythms). Where the music is in the 21st century is at a point where musicians are continually experimenting with forms, instruments, and ways to structure group improvisation. Clean Feed puts out music that begins at least one step past the mainstream and goes all the way to free improvisation, including music making that really has no relationship to the jazz idiom other than that it is improvised. The music on Clean Feed swings, rocks, whispers, and screams, and their releases over the past few years have been some of my very favorite.

In what is good news for them and for the jazz world, direct sales through their site have been increasing over the past three years (they distribute to ten different countries and sell, of course, through Amazon). Their annual Super Stock Off sale is going on RIGHT NOW at their site, with dozens of titles at $7 or less. Go check it out, and buy a shit load, some recommended titles below:

  • Harris Eisenstadt, The Destructive Element
  • Eric Revis Quartet, In Memory of Things Yet Seen
  • Dual Identity, Dual Identity
  • Joe McPhee, Sonic Elements
  • Chris Lightcap’s Big Mouth, Deluxe
  • Pascal Niggenkemper Vision7, Lucky Prime
  • Trumpets and Drums, live in Ljubljana
  • Sara Serpa/Ran Blake, Aurora
  • Marty Ehrlich’s Rites Quartet, Frog Leg Logic
  • Charles Gayle Trio, Considering the Lilies
  • Luis Lopes, Lisbon Berlin Trio
  • Kulhammer/Aalberg/Zetterberg, Basement Sessions Vol. 1
  • Daniel Levin, Inner Landscape
  • Aram Shelton’s Arrive, There Was…
  • Elliott Sharp Trio, Aggregat
  • Nate Wooley Quintet, (Dance to) the Early Music
  • Eve Risser, Des pas sur la neige
  • Mario Pavone, Blue Dialect
  • Roots Magic, Hoodoo Blues
  • Renku, Live in Greenwich Village
  • Dre Hocevar, Collective Effervescence
  • Kris Davis Trio, Waiting for You to Grow
  • Matt Bauder and Day in Pictures, Nightshades
  • Ballister, Mechanisms
  • Hairybones, Snakelust

Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.