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A Fireside Chat with Gerry Teekens

By Published: February 21, 2004

AAJ: If you were a scout for the majors, you would be recruiting for the Yankees, because Criss Cross has been the first record for Chris Potter, Eric Alexander, Peter Bernstein, Mark Turner, and Kenny Garrett.

GT: Peter is still here. I just record the musicians that I think are a great talent.

AAJ: How often do you go into New York to hear the talent?

GT: I am there twice or three times a year, in May and beginning of June and always in December.

AAJ: You record every time you are in New York?

GT: Yes.

AAJ: How many records is Criss Cross Jazz releasing per year?

GT: It just depends. I used to go in December only in the beginning. I did sixteen, eighteen dates in a row. It is a lot of work. I have my own engineer. I started out at Rudy Van Gelder's, well, as a matter of fact, I started here in Holland, like the Jim Raney and Kirk Lightsey and the Clifford Jordan was here with Junior Cook. I don't like to record existing bands because there is always a musician in a band that can be replaced by a better one. When I get in contact with a musician for the first time, we talk a lot on the phone and I know what he is up to and he knows what I like. I propose a rhythm section and if he likes it and it is also important to not take two stars that don't have a hook up. Famous bass players and famous drummers, you put them together and it doesn't coincide. It doesn't match. I know what drummer fits in a certain context and same about the bassist. These are the rhythm sections that I use and rhythm sections have a lot of priority on my records. I have to have a real burning drummer and a great bassist. That is the basis of the orchestra. That is the art. That's the blood.

AAJ: Who has that burning swing?

GT: The bassist who recorded forty records is Peter Washington, who is a great bassist. He is the Paul Chambers of the label. I also like Chris McBride and John Webber and Dennis Irwin and Scott Colley. If you look at the label, you see what bass players I like. And the drummers, that is very, very important. My soundman, who is from the Netherlands, he has a great sound and that is what I go for.

AAJ: Let's touch on some of your latest releases.

GT: I had five in January as a matter of fact, the street date was February. The first one was a session that I did in '94, with Brad Mehldau, Mark Turner, Peter Bernstein, Larry Grenadier, and Leon Parker.

AAJ: Good band.

GT: A great session, beautiful. On the basis of that, the last thing we played on that session was a duet between Mark Turner and Brad Mehldau and I liked that so much because Mark Turner is a Warne Marsh admirer and so am I. He reminds me so much of Warne Marsh. At the end of the session, after the duet they played, I said that we should do a ballad album because the duets thing was a ballad. And so four days later, we did a ballad album and for the contrast, I took a second tenor, Tad Shull, who is kind of a Don Byas tenor player. He recorded with me before in The Tenor Triangle. That record is coming out this month. Mark Turner, Tad Shull, two tenors and it is only ballads with Kevin Hays, Larry Grenadier, and Billy Drummond. And what else did I do, a Steve Davis Sextet with Steve Nelson and Peter Bernstein and David Hazeltine. There was a Ryan Kisor Quartet with John Webber and Willie Jones. I did a record introducing Jimmy Greene.

AAJ: He is now on RCA Victor.

GT: Yeah, I know, but I recorded this guy three years ago. And Jimmy Greene plays here with John Swana, Steve Davis, who is Chick now, Aaron Goldberg, who is with Joshua Redman, and Eric McPherson, who is Jackie McLean's drummer. There is a record that I made with Jim Rotondi Sextet, which is the same combination as One for All.

AAJ: Eric Alexander's collective.

GT: Yes, and we have five new ones. In fact, in two weeks, I will have 10 new records on the market.

AAJ: How extensive is the Criss Cross Jazz catalog?

GT: There will be 186. I will be back probably in May, beginning of June and definitely in December.

AAJ: And how is the sales volume?

GT: It depends. Sometime it is better in the States, sometimes in Europe, and sometimes in Japan. I am not complaining. Jazz is always, especially my label, it is pure jazz. I don't make any concessions. Musicians have to know what they are doing. I have a tenor player named Walt Weiskopf that writes all his own music. He can just do it. I don't tell them what to do. They are all responsible players and so they know what to do.

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