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Fresh Sound-New Talent

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As for his label's focus, 'I can say that most of the Fresh Sound-New Talent sound is a modern mainstream jazz music from this century.'
Fresh Sound-New Talent owner and founder Jordi Pujol lives in Barcelona where his label is based but he's been up all night following the US Presidential election. Speaking from his native Spain the "morning after," he expresses the hope that the selection of President Elect Barack Obama might bode well not only for America but Europe as well. "The problems in the record industry are not a new thing," he explains. "But on top of those problems we have already suffered there's now this big [global financial] crisis." In Spain, too, he acknowledges, people are struggling to keep their homes, jobs and some standard of living. He reasons: Many are finding the rising prices of groceries difficult, so how are they going to buy CDs?

Still, while these realities are daunting, Pujol has got his fingers crossed for a decent Christmas shopping season and beyond. Whatever it takes. After tirelessly introducing young jazz artists from both his country and the US for a decade-and-a-half already (Fresh Sound-New Talent celebrates its 15th anniversary this year), this determined entrepreneur and lifelong music devotee isn't going to give up. "It's not easy to do jazz records," he admits, but there's no stopping him now. "I'm still here. And I hope to be here for some years to come."

A good thing. During all those years, Pujol helped launch or support the jazz careers of such artists as Brad Mehldau (who was living in Spain at the time), Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bill McHenry, Chris Cheek, 2008 MacAthur Fellow Miguel Zenon, Reid Anderson, Rebecca Martin, Matt Penman, Logan Richardson, 2007 Monk Competition winner Ambrose Akinmusire, Jeremy Pelt, Jaleel Shaw, Omer Avital, Robert Glasper, Gerald Cleaver, Marcus Strickland and an ever-expanding list of others. It's the discovery and release of those young emerging jazz artists of today that remain his passion.

By the early '90s, Pujol had recorded musicians on the local scene in Barcelona as well as more established US players based primarily on the West Coast. But it was a New York City experience that propelled him forward to concentrate on a new direction. "I still remember the day, I think it was 1995, when I was at Smalls for the first time, the old Smalls and I immediately felt that I wanted to record something like this. Because the kind of music I heard in that club had all the kind of energy I was looking for. I was not too much interested in what was happening at the Blue Note or the Village Vanguard or things like that. That was very interesting music but not what I was looking for... Going down the stairs that first night at Smalls I heard Myron Walden, who is one of my favorite alto players. I'll never forget that night."

Soon he would be recording many members of that New York-based scene. "At that moment I was in very good relationship with Jordi Rossy, the drummer of Brad Mehldau. He was coming to the States and I told him I would like to record many musicians there so we can be in touch and if you know people that are interesting... I met Rosenwinkel, Cheek and a lot of people I felt I'd like to record." So the Barcelona-New York connection was born and flourished.

Pujol, the son of a jazz fan, who worked as a textile designer in Barcelona and also for a few years in Paris before establishing his recording business, enjoys the process. "I do this because it's my passion. And I like to take risks recording musicians that nobody knows but I like. And I think to make sense in life, you need to take risks and that's what's exciting. If not, life is nothing and you're passing through life with no excitement." His thrill "is to listen to the demos I receive from musicians all the time. I listen to all of them. Some I answer very soon if I like what I hear. Some I keep to listen to again at a better moment. Others I just don't listen to ever again. There's no secret—I just keep doing what I like to do."

And, he adds, "I do what I can, considering that the record business is what it is today, which is very difficult." Above all, he says, whoever he chooses to record he wants those artists to be who they are and do what they do. "I respect what they want to do. I never make suggestions, except if somebody asks my opinion." As for his label's focus, "I can say that most of the Fresh Sound-New Talent sound is a modern mainstream jazz music from this century."

While he appreciates many kinds of jazz and music, his main aim is to look ahead, not backward. "My goal, if that's possible, is always to appeal to a new generation." An admirer in his youth of Lee Morgan and Fats Navarro, he even took up the trumpet himself. While he played a bit in the Barcelona scene in his younger years, his motivation remains showcasing the talents of others.

"I've been listening to jazz all my life. From all the classic tradition and everything in jazz and then I have my own personal taste. But in general I like all kinds of jazz: big bands, bebop, avant-garde, free jazz. But obviously you can't put all of these things on one label. So what I try to do is make a label that is considered a jazz label, but a label made by young musicians from now."

As for his modus operandi, he explains: "Sometimes a musician will tell me, 'Oh, I can get Lee Konitz on my record as a guest. So I say, "Does Lee Konitz play with you normally?' And they answer, 'No, not really.' So I say, 'Well then I don't want him. Who plays the alto in your group? I want that person. I don't know who he is. But that's who I want.'"

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