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Record Label Profiles

Alma Records: Getting to the Essence of Jazz

By Published: July 16, 2008
Also on the Alma roster is one of the best-kept secrets in jazz guitar. Jake Langley is one of the few axe-men who play in a deep-rooted bluesy style. Langley, an itinerant traveler tours a reputed 200-days a year, something few musicians have the energy to do today. His organ trio includes the celebrated Joey DeFrancesco and has successfully revived a format that was once made famous by Wes Montgomery and then carried on by the two John's—Abercrombie and Scofield. Langley's 2007 offering, Movin' and Groovin,' is a wholesome swinger of a record, which takes listeners on a rousing tour of music, featuring the blues and funk, soul and bebop, Latin and gospel. Langley lives in the US today and continues to tour at a furious pace. His organ trio is thriving and he is gaining a reputation as a guitarist of repute and a perfect foil for the soulful Hammond B3 of Joey DeFrancesco.

Alma records have been clever in the development of its roster, choosing its artists carefully and leaving the artists to develop a repertoire that expresses who they are. Some of the more important artists developed by Alma are the prodigiously talented pianist and vocalist Michael Kaeshammer, virtuoso percussionist Vito Rezza, saxophonist Phil Dwyer and the newly discovered tenor saxophonist, Mike Ruby.

Cardinali has also come to be recognized as an outstanding producer. Few know that he worked for years at Motown—arranging and producing such artists as Marvin Gaye and Rick James. He has also arranged and produced albums for the outstanding Toronto violinist, Hugh Marsh and for Anne Murray. While many of the Juno-winning albums made by Alma artists have been produced by him, his most successful production to date has been the One Take series of albums and DVDs. As the title suggests, One Take is built on the premise that all the music be recorded and captured on video as such: in just one take! Three volumes have so far been released. The first featured Toronto's legendary Canadian guitarist, Lorne Lofsky with Trumpeter and flugelhorn player, Guido Basso, Hammond B3 wunderkind, Joey DeFrancesco and drummer, Vito Rezza. One Take, Volume Two features drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, keyboardist Robi Botos, saxophonist, Phil Dwyer and bassist, Marc Rogers. One Take, Volume Three, probably the most challenging of all is a duet date featuring leading bassist and multi-instrumentalist, Don Thompson and guitarist Reg Schwager. According to Cardinali, more of these sessions have been planned. As a producer who has long-since endeared himself to musicians, his choices are broad and the jazz-loving public can expect the unexpected!

In addition to signing its own artists, Alma has ensured that the largely Canadian roster is rolled out worldwide, through judicious licensing deals with, as Cardinali puts it, "kindred labels," such as Universal, Ryko, edel, Proper, Perleberg, Pony Canyon, Gallo, EMI, Scorpio, Sony, Warner and several others. And having established a solid base over the decade and a half of its existence—Alma has a promotions division, a film unit and a multi-media division—the label has now expanded its music publishing division, Cardster Music Company. For once the future of jazz in Canada for those free-spirited musicians who have defined the idiom—north of the ubiquitous border—is beginning to look a lot brighter, at least for recording artists.

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