Rivorecords: Blue Notes from Buenos Aires
Paula Shocron: Serenade in Blue recording session: L to R: J. M. Bayón, Shocron, Eloy Michelini.
The audience seems to agree with Lo Prete's definition of a good record because so far the reception has been positive: "The label has been received in a quite enthusiastic way here in Argentina, where conditions are very difficult for jazz musicians. Jazz fans, in general, are very appreciative, and are always encouraging us. With honorable exceptions, the media pays little attention to jazz recordings."
Elaborating on the climate of jazz in Argentine and Buenos Aires in particular, he says: "In Buenos Aires the climate is good. A lot of tourists visit this city, which, somehow, strengthens such climate. However, the jazz world is "small" compared to that of any other popular music. I think it happens in any part of the world. So there are not many labels around; it also seems to me that the fact that the industry is at a stage where there is a lot of uncertainty about the format of the music does not help. Also, in Buenos Aires, there are not many clubs featuring only jazz music. The economic issue does not help either. Setting up a club involves tackling many economic and administrative problems. For example, a decent piano costs quite a fortune in Argentina. There are really good musicians across the country. Technically speaking, musicians have grown more professional in the last few years. Outside Buenos Aires, things are tough, even in large and important cities."
While Buenos Aires has a good climate for jazz, it still isn't enough to make a living out of jazz, as Justo Lo Prete says emphatically: "Of course, it is impossible to make a living out of jazz by means of running a jazz label that loves to release music via a physical format. No way. Not in this country, at least. I'm a lawyer and I work hard every day."
Mariano Loiacono: What's New? recording session: L to R: Sebastián Loiacono, Mariano Loiacono, Gustavo Musso, Francisco Lo Vuolo, Jerónimo Carmona, Pepi Taveira.
Still, considering the limitations, Rivorecords has secured good distribution: "Rivorecords is being distributed by DBN, the largest distributor in our country. It has allowed the label to be in lots of places of difficult access for an independent 'handcrafted' company."
With distribution in place and the economic ambitions toned down, Justo Lo Prete knows what he wants: "Well, my goal is to make "sincere" records, nicely packaged; nothing too ambitious, actually."
So far, Rivorecords has released twelve records, with more on the way: "If everything goes well, Paula Shocron's solo piano comes next, recorded on a very nice Fazioli piano, the same we used for the excellent sounding, just released Adrian Iaies solo piano CD, and also a nonet recording lead by Mariano Loiacono."
Summing up the situation of the label, he says: "I am satisfied with what I have achieved so far. I have done it with love, dedication and great care. I have no long-term plans for the label. I just want to show the genre to other people in this country, and somehow be of some help to many of the really good musicians we have in Argentina deserving to be better known."
There certainly is a lot of jazz talent in Argentina and the proof can be found in the catalog of Rivorecords where the blue notes abound and the spirit of the '50s and '60s is revived.
Solo Piano en Argentina
While Rivorecords has a clear preference for Argentinian musicians, an important exception is the solo record of American pianist Kirk Lightsey, which captures him in a stellar performance at Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2012.
Lightsey's roots are firmly planted in the hard bop idiom, but he has also worked as a session pianist for Motown Records in the 60s. Rhythm 'n' blues is in his blood and this becomes evident in the gutsy, rollicking outbursts that suddenly break through the contemplative mood in his version of Wayne Shorter's ballad "Infant Eyes." Lightsey has the whole history of jazz and blues in his hands and is able to use it at will in epic explorations of depth and variety. His percussive touch on the piano brings out the rhythmical elements in the instrument and makes it dance, but he is also capable of gently nurturing a pretty melody without becoming saccharine.
What is most impressive, however, is how he changes organically between styles and tempi while keeping track of the melody. His own originals "Habiba" and "Heaven Dance" hold up well in the company of compositions by Dave Brubeck, Tony Williams and Phil Woods. Here is an old master at work that sounds as if he has discovered his second youth.