When you first come across the recordings on Kadima Collective, a couple of things stand out. The first is that the label, devoted to free improvisation, is based in Israel; secondly, there's a good chance that the CD will feature a bassist, often one of substantial international stature, like Barre Phillips, Mark Dresser or Joëlle Léandre.
Those distinguishing marks can be traced to the founder of both the Kadima Collective and the eponymous label, Jean-Claude Jones, a bassist of the first rank himself. Born in Tunisia and raised in France, Jones is a Berklee College graduate who immigrated to Israel in 1983. A veteran of fusion, mainstream jazz and free improvisation, Jones is a man of remarkable energy who has chaired the Jazz Department at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and compiled a list of playing credits that runs from Stan Getz to Marc Ribot.
Jones started Kadima Collective as a co-op in 2004 with a few other like-minded Israeli musicians: "My original idea and goal were to document the free improv scene here in Israel and let the world know where we are in this particular trend of music. Together with a small group of musicians, we started to record our experiments, with the intention to have them published somehow. Soon after, in 2005, after realizing that it was a waste of time to look for an international label that would publish us, I decided to create the Kadima Collective Recordings, along with a couple of friends, great local free improvisers."
Part of the distinctive energy of Israeli free improvisation comes from the special cultural mix of "sabras, i.e., Israeli born and others like me, olim, emigrants from different parts of the world," says Jones. You might hear it in two of the label's finest musicians, the native-born soprano saxophonist Ariel Shibolet and the senior clarinetist Harold Rubin, a veteran painter and musician who had fled South African apartheid in the '60s and lived in Europe before settling in Israel.
For Jones, Kadima's multiple missions are embedded in the Hebrew sounds of the name: K (kouf), D (daled) and M (mem). "Combined with different vowels they can give 'kodem,' at the beginning or before; 'kedem,' ancient times; 'kedma,' progress; 'kidoum,' advertising, progress, promotion; 'hakdama,' introduction; 'kedimout,' priority and many more. 'Kadima' literally means move on, go ahead, proceed. I have a desperate desire to move on. I happen to be suffering from a debilitating disease, MS [multiple sclerosis], no cure in sight. Since I have been diagnosed, the best therapy to keep my life happening is to be doing only what I love, playing and devoting my energy and spending my money in documenting free improv music."
Jones took production into his own hands: "I bought the full DigiDesign hardware and Pro Tools software. Took me a couple of years to learn how to use the stuff and we started recording cuts in my home-made Pro Tools studio and manufacturing limited runs of CDs, all co-productions between Kadima and the guys. That was the easiest part. Attracting distributors was another story...
..."So I had the idea of approaching a few artists of international stature and based abroad, with the intention of helping to promote the label and get the interest of distributors, retail stores and writers. And this is exactly what happened, from 2007 with Ned Rothenberg and Joëlle Léandre, soon followed by Mark Dresser, Barre Phillips, Bert Turetzky, Vinny Golia and Günter Baby Sommer. And we all received international attention."
The catalogue that is evolving is a fine balance between Jones' interests, those strong local players and an international cast of largely great bass players. Among the best of the local performances is Jones' own Recomp, recomposed and excerpted performances that include bassist Avishai Cohen, Rothenberg and Rubin, among others. Jones' distinctive creativity is further apparent on The World Is Round with speaker Joseph Sprinzak. It's a sound/text piece in Hebrew based on Gertrude Stein's eponymous story. There's a masterpiece of free group improvisation from California called Untitled (1959)it's named for a Mark Rothko paintingin which Shibolet visits with Bay-area singer Aurora Josephson, trombonist Jen Baker, pianist Scott R. Looney and bassist Damon Smith. Rubin's One Voice combines two long suites for unaccompanied clarinet that reveal a great improvising soloist.
On the international side of things bassists predominate: À l'improviste, by the duo of Phillips and Léandre, Dresser's duo with pianist Denman Maroney on Live in Concert and the late Peter Kowald with Vinny Golia called Mythology. Jones' connections with the French improvised music scene are also apparent in the recent While You Were Out, a brilliant trio of sound-singer Catherine Jauniaux, Phillips and Rothenberg recorded at Instants Chavirés and a stellar solo performance by Phillips called Portraits.
Some of the very finest moments, though, are the meetings in Israel between touring musicians and the local community. Joëlle Léandre's Live in Israel is a two-CD set that matches a solo CD with a series of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem encounters with a duo, a trio and a sextet that variously include the keening voice and oud of Sameer Makhoul as well as Jones, reed players Assif Tsahar, Steve Horenstein, Shibolet and drummer Haggai Fershtman, another regular contributor to these projects. Jones, Horenstein and Tsahar are also among those joining another giant of European free jazz, drummer Günter Baby Sommer on Live in Jerusalem.
Jones is now launching a Kadima Triptych Series, ambitious sets that match a CD with a DVD and an expanded text. The first is a multi-media documentation of Dresser's solo bass work while the second Triptych is devoted to a work that's at the heart of Jean-Claude's philosophy, the Deep Tones for Peace Project, bridging time, space and nations. It documents the piece "SLM" by Dresser and Sarah Weaver simultaneously played in Jerusalem and New York through a television hook-up in April of 2009. The ensemble of 13 bassists includes Jones, Dresser and Phillips and spans nations, styles and generations to include William Parker, Bertram Turetzky, Trevor Dunn, Henry Grimes, Lindsey Horner, Irina-Kalina Goudeva and Rufus Reid. It's emblematic of Jones' vision, forging strong ties between the Israeli improvising community and like-minded musicians around the world.