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Record Label Profiles

MoonJune Records: A Decade of Progressive Rock Documentation

By Published: October 5, 2011
LP: I dug deeply into the ECM catalogue in the 1980s and discovered master musicians like Terje Rypdal
Terje Rypdal
Terje Rypdal
b.1947
guitar
, Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
, Jan Garbarek
Jan Garbarek
Jan Garbarek
b.1947
sax, tenor
, Eberhard Weber
Eberhard Weber
Eberhard Weber
b.1940
bass
, Egberto Gismonti
Egberto Gismonti
Egberto Gismonti
b.1947
guitar, acoustic
and Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
. Jazz was an important link to all of the progressive rock musicians that I admired. Besides ECM artists, I loved figures such as John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, Sun Ra
Sun Ra
Sun Ra
1914 - 1993
keyboard
, Elton Dean
Elton Dean
Elton Dean
1945 - 2006
saxophone
, and Keith Tippett
Keith Tippett
Keith Tippett
b.1947
piano
. In the 1980s, Italy was a mecca for live jazz, and I was lucky to see so many amazing American and European jazzers perform there. Many of the best progressive bands such as King Crimson, Soft Machine, Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
1940 - 1993
guitar, electric
, and Hatfield and the North were heavily influenced by the best jazz music of the 1950s and 1960s. Artists like Robert Wyatt [who wrote the Soft Machine tune "Moon In June"] have taken all of this jazz background forward into other areas they are still exploring, much as I do with MoonJune.

AAJ: When and how did you start MoonJune Records?

LP: Typically, people start record labels with multiple-year business plans and projections, some investment, an artist roster, distribution in place, a good lawyer and accountant, office space and so on. Nothing like that happened in my case. I became a record label almost by "accident" in 2001, and after ten years I am still here with this unusual and I would say very unique label called MoonJune Records.

In 2001, I accidentally discovered the world of progressive rock festivals in the USA. I was always a big prog-rock fan, but in those days I didn't have any idea that those festivals existed. A friend from Italy told me about NEARfest, just two hours west of New York City; I tried to go, but all tickets were sold out. Then, one month before the festival, the same friend told me that he could not come to the festival and that I could use his ticket. That's how I went to NEARfest in June 2000, where I discovered a new band I had never heard before whose performance blew my mind. That was D.F.A. from Verona, Italy. After their performance, I met the band, we spoke in Italian, and we immediately became friends.

In the meantime, my Italian friend, who in those days managed the Italian band Finisterre and was producing their album In Limine for his label, asked me if I could work with the band, deciding to reissue their 1997 live recording from the ProgDay festival in North Carolina, with a bonus track, different title and artwork. When trying to find gigs for the band, I didn't have much experience in booking bands then, but thanks to some contacts in Mexico (where the band enjoyed a great deal of cult fame among the prog fans), I was somehow able to book Finisterre seven shows in that country in early 2001, a very nice tour, and that's how I started my booking activities.

While co-producing Soft Works, a sort of Soft Machine
Soft Machine
Soft Machine

band/orchestra
reunion (with Allan Holdsworth
Allan Holdsworth
Allan Holdsworth
b.1948
guitar
, Elton Dean
Elton Dean
Elton Dean
1945 - 2006
saxophone
, Hugh Hopper
Hugh Hopper
Hugh Hopper
1945 - 2009
bass, electric
and John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall
b.1941
trumpet
), Elton Dean, whom I had known very well since the mid-80s, gave me the master of a live recording he had made with guitarist Mark Hewins. I decided to release that one, then D.F.A.'s live performance from NEARfest 2000, and a live Finisterre performance from a prog festival in 1997, and that's how the label started, with Bar Torque by Dean/Hewins, Storybook by Finisterre, and Work In Progress Live by D.F.A. All three records were released in June 2001.

AAJ: Where do you find inspiration for the CD cover designs you create?

LP: I have a background in graphic design from working at Studio T here in New York City for many years. I am generally not interested in CD covers with musicians posing, which can be a turn-off and says nothing about the music. I try to let the music inspire a mood and color for a cover. In a case like Soft Machine's Drop, which is more of a historical recording, an older photo makes sense in that context. There have also been a few times when I let artists submit their ideas for a cover by providing high-quality artwork, and if I liked the idea, I gave them complete freedom and it worked out very well. There were also one or two designs chosen by an artist that I wasn't particularly happy with, due to unfortunate usage of fonts and flawed layout, but they can't all be masterpieces.


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