Jazz Eyes: Eyes and Ears Wide Open
In jazz, spontaneity is essential. It can also be useful when setting up a label. So it's no great coincidence that, once the Italian jazz enthusiasts Paolo Siculiana and Toti Cannistraro realized they both loved the production and distribution of records, their Jazz Eyes label rapidly became a reality. "The story starts on a dark night," Siculiana recalls, "when my friend Toti and I were talking about music and how to start a label. And so I said that since I knew how to build a label and he knew how to find talented artists then we could join each other."
Elaborating on the partnership, Siculiana says: "When I started the label, the collaboration with Toti, who is a great promoter, was fundamental. The strategy was to combine my album producing with Toti's concert roster. In brief, to promote the artist's growth through the album and the tour." Thus, at the heart of the label, there is belief in the artist and dedication to his or her individual work. Jazz Eyes isn't about producing a signature sound for the label. The dedication to each artist's own vision is what counts. As Siculiana says: "I do not aim to have a specific sound. I prefer to leave the artist to choose whatever his inspiration suggests for his project. But I decided to have specific packaging and graphics which can identify my label."
What it all comes down to is promoting the artist's work in the most fruitful way, and this is done not only through alluring packaging but also through ensuring that the music is available in different formats. Besides pressing CDs and offering its music digitally through a wide range of portals, Jazz Eyes now caters to the audiophile connoisseur. Says Siculiana: "We are printing all the catalogue in 180 gram vinyl."
In mid 2009, Jazz Eyes' catalogue consists of six high quality releases which, in their diversity and integrity, affirm the decision to let each artist's own vision shape the profile of the label.
The Kevin Hays Trio
For Heaven's Sake
Pianist Kevin Hays' Trio, including drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Doug Weiss, provided the first release for Jazz Eyes with the album For Heaven's Sake, and it's easy to understand why the album received so much critical acclaim. It combines the virtues of tight interplay, profound melodic understanding and delicacy of tone on eight tunes that shimmer with timeless beauty.
The reading of Sonny Rollins' "Sonny Moon for Two" is bold and yet tender while the choice of Sam Rivers' classic ballad "Beatrice" brings forth the saxophonist's much undervalued abilities as a composer. Weiss opens with a carefully constructed solo before the rest of the group enters. Stewart graces the tune with empathic brushwork and the leader plays the piano pensively, softly stretching the melody with Weiss lingering around.
Just as Weiss gives a thoughtful introduction to "Beatrice," he takes a prominent role on "For Heavens Sake," carving out an intricate pattern on the bass while Hays lays down a riverbed of chords.
Duke Ellington's "Caravan" is another classic revisited and treated with great imagination. As is the case with the album as a whole, Hays is able to strike a perfect balance between traditionalism and modernism, bringing out the best in the tunes he chooses to play. There's a sense of the compositional core both being respected and stretched; Hays makes the trio work as a unit but allows enough space to let performer individuality shine through.
Eddie Gomez Trio
Kevin Hays has been around for some time, but he is still entitled to be called a rising star. The same cannot be said of the leader on the second release on Jazz Eyes, bassist Eddie Gomez. By now, Gomez must be considered something of an elder statesman on the jazz scene. He has played with such luminaries as keyboardist Chick Corea, trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist Michael Brecker, but is perhaps best known as a member of pianist Bill Evans' trio.
On Palermo, Gomez returns to the format of the trio that has brought him so much artistic success, but this time the headliner is the bassist himself. This doesn't mean that Gomez hasn't gathered some stellar players to complete the line-up. Stefan Karlsson is a pianist who is as talented as they come, with both technical prowess and superior sensibility, and drummer Nasheet Waits has quickly become a modern day Philly Joe Jones. With his propulsive style, he has helped define the post-modern piano trio, playing in constellations with contemporary masters such as Fred Hersch and Jason Moran.