"Art should be real, it should be authentic, it needs to speak to me in some way, even in a way that I don't necessarily like immediately or recognize. Often, you look at a piece of writing or a painting and there's some sort of instant connection...
Listening to drummer Federico Ughi speak bears a remarkable resemblance to hearing one of his label's recordings. He is down to earth, accessible without being condescending or over-effusive, his voice continually conveying the excitement that accompanies the heartfelt desire for honest communication, whatever its form. The seven 577 releases currently on offer tell a similar story; they do not boast slick production or excessive sonic cleanliness. This is as it should be, fitting perfectly the directness, immediacy and rough-hewn vibrancy of the music they document, affording some introspective, explosive and endlessly diverse listening.
"There came a point when I got a bit tired of just being known as a drummer, Ughi says, further delineating the penchant for re-invention that has come to define the body of work he releases. He's certainly a fine drummer in any conventional sense, playing from early childhood in Rome, forming strong musical bonds documented in recordings made in both London and New York, the latter being where 577 was born. "Three or four of us lived together in an apartment in Brooklyn and we started organizing events in February 2001. For about a year, we'd have two or three things happening every monthDaniel Carter would come down and Steve Dalachinsky would come down, that's how it all started and I felt a really strong connection to this community of musicians.
Comparing any two of the label's earlier releases demonstrates an astonishing degree of openness and acceptance, even defiance, of genre and category. While not one of the recordings made in the Brooklyn dwelling, the joint Ughi/Dalachinsky release, I Thought it was the End of the World...
(2001) documents Ughi's interest in mixing live sampling with his timbrally inventive percussion work. His techniques yield orchestral results, extremely satisfying compositionally while providing fascinating sonic nuggets from moment to moment, mirroring beautifully the emotive rollercoaster in every phrase of Dalachinsky's poetry and vocal delivery.
Seemingly quite similar, Ulers Two
(2001) presents what is revealed as a very different aspect of Ughi's electronic manipulations. Good portions of the disc are studies in conventionally tonal minimalism, much of that effect coming from the clever looping and processing of his voice. "It was something that I was very interested in doing for a while, Ughi responds offhandedly to my enthusiasm, "something that I got out of my system. It seems an understandable but unnecessary dismissal of some unique music that synthesizes the innovations of Tony Conrad and Eddie Prevost to startling effect.
"When we moved out of the apartment, when everybody in that initial community went our separate ways, we all still felt that we had made a really good start, you know, that we'd achieved something very strong and worth continuing. We started releasing recordings of the people involved. Ughi is unwilling to accept fully the idea of label ownership, preferring to focus on the many contributions of musicians and friends. "Well I run it, I deal with most of it, but I really like to get input from everybody, both people that were involved at the time of recording and from others, people that I trust and that seem sincere.
Of course, Ughi is eager to discuss the label's recent releases, one of which, The Dream featuring Ughi, William Parker and Daniel Carter, has been reviewed in these pages. Hearing the way in which Ughi discusses the release endowed the project with new significance. "I thought I was having a heart attack. I've never had one, but it's the best way I can describe it. I really went to another place during that sessionit wasn't beautiful, it wasn't uglyI've never experienced anything quite like it.
The temptation is strong to posit that the label's latest release, an ensemble project fronted by Sabir Mateen, is the best thing 577's released so far. The last release seemed similarly important at the time and it is a pleasure to watch the label move from strength to strength, fostered by Ughi's vision and receptivity to innovation. It is this willingness to be open that is so obviously manifested in his vision for the label's future. He envisions even more input from the artistic community in which he's immersed himself, wishing to have the musicians become even more integral to each project's development; given the music released to this point and the integrity of the musicians involved, exemplary results can be anticipated.