Accurate Records: Growing Out of Boston
After the success I had with Dial "E", other musicians in the Boston scene began asking me for advice about how to put out a record, and it began to dawn on me that I had the infrastructure of a label in place but not enough product flow. I decided to expand and put out other artists' recordings, starting withKosen Rufu by the Billy Skinner Double Jazz Quartet. Billy is a trumpeter and composer whom I remembered from a point in his career in the mid-70s when he was playing with Jackie McLean. After that he had moved to Boston and led a band that included Henry Cook, a reedman whom I knew from my year at Berklee. Henry was a good organizer and served as de facto manager and producer for the DJQ, and we worked together on mixing, packaging and promoting Kosen Rufu in early 1990. Soon afterwards, I worked with violinist Emery Davis, saxophonist Phil Scarff (Natraj), bassist John Leaman (the Mandala Octet), saxophonist Jay Brandford, saxophonist (and E/O member) Charlie Kohlhase and vocalist Dominique Eade to put out a bunch of CDs in quick succession. It's impossible to lump these fine musicians in one stylistic camp, but altogether they help to understand the parameters of the label, from Indo-jazz to swinging post-bop to avant-garde to original vocal jazz. All intelligent, self-managed artists who could participate fully in producing and promoting their albums, all devoted to being original voices in their chosen stylistic areas. Also, many Either/Orchestra members sprinkled throughout these groups.
Since then, that general description has held. I see Accurate as a kind of coop label, where I handle the central organization, the relations with distributors and so on, and generally define the aesthetics of the label through my selection of artists, but where the artists have tons of autonomy in regards to their own albums. I've never been in the position, financially or organizationally, to develop very unformed artists, but I'm fortunate that Boston is just full of mature or quickly maturing artists who have needed what I can provide.
AAJ: You are both a musician and a label owner. How have the different practices influenced each other?
RG: I suppose the first way is that being an active player in several different segments of the Boston jazz and rock scenes, I have a lot of direct contact with players and hear through the musician grapevine what people are up to and what they are like as artists, organizers and people. So it's been fairly easy for me to find appropriate artists and vice versa. I have put out a number of albums by people I didn't previously know from different parts of the country, but that came a little later when I had more experience and skill at evaluating the situation. I'm fortunate that many of my friends have been great artists and many great artists are my friends, which made the quality of music on Accurate usually very high.
The next way is that any and all promotional strategies that I would recommend to other artists I have already tried out on myself, on the Either/Orchestra. The artists respect the fact that if I'm going to recommend, in effect, that they spend their promotional budget a certain way, I've already risked my own money in the same way. I'm like Dr. Jekyll, always drinking the experimental brew first. And because I'm a working musician, the artists come in recognizing that I have limited time and resources to put into their CDs, that my most valuable contribution to them will be my own experience, successes and failures.
AAJ: Could you mention some of the records that have made a special impression on you? What would you define as key moments in the history of the label?
RG: The obvious list would involve the artists who have gone on to great success. The unique rock band Morphine's debut album Good, Medeski, Martin & Wood's Notes from the Underground, which they originally issued themselves, but which I picked up as they were emerging into fame, albums by Dominique Eade and Garrison Fewell which featured such major figures as Stanley Cowell, Alan Dawson, Fred Hersch and Cecil McBee. Of course the Either/Orchestra albums mean the most to me personally, and when I was nominated for a Grammy in 1992 that gave the label a higher level of cachet.
But I can honestly say that there is no album on the label that I didn't love at least a little during the course of working on it, and a great many that I loved a lot. When I go back to through the catalog, I'm amazed at the enduring quality and integrity of almost all of it. I only wish there is more that I could do to bring recognition to these recordings.
AAJ: Accurate Records has been around for quite some time now. Has it become easier or harder to make a living as an independent record label?