All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Record Label Profiles

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

622

HighNote/Savant Records

By

Sign in to view read count
You can chew on our stuff for a good bit of time and get a real good taste out of it. —Joe Fields
In the mid '60s, when HighNote/Savant president Joe Fields was a young record executive at the Prestige label, he recognized talent in a young saxophone player called Houston Person. "I felt if I were to have a record company, he'd be the kind of artist I'd want," said Fields. Last month Person released his seventh album on HighNote. It's a gorgeous disc of mostly standards, featuring the deep luxurious tone of Person's tenor saxophone.

Eight months earlier, David "Fathead" Newman, an equally respected, and talented player, released his fourth disc for HighNote, The Gift. Eight originals swing, tribute jazz immortals, and resonate with a distinctive beauty cultivated through years of discipline.

"When we talk about fellows like Person and Newman, people look at them and say 'oh man those are two older guys, that company's been around so long, they have an old vision.' We have never lost the beat of the street," explained Fields.



Many of the artists Fields works with now are people he recorded in the '70s on his first label Muse, like trumpet player Wallace Roney and vocalist Mark Murphy. They are older, seasoned artists, who have withstood the test of time, and form strong connections with their audience.

"We do not record what I consider 'white bread artists' - having nothing to do with color of skin. A white bread artist is something that is sort of pappy, no real flavor. We do whole grain, ten grain, sink-your-teeth-into loaves. You can chew on our stuff for a good bit of time and get a real good taste out of it."

Fields started the HighNote and Savant labels seven years ago. He sold his first label Muse during the economic boom of the '80s. Originally Fields established the two labels, so he could record two styles of music. One label was meant to be for the more traditional jazz, and the other would be for music that was a bit edgier. But it didn't work out as planned. The nature of the business took over the original intention.

Thirty years ago the industry ran on a slower, scaled down stage. All a record company needed was one month to get an album out in stores, work radio, and press, and promote it. Now, with larger distribution companies, and the advent of the "street date", it takes eight weeks to market a new release. So putting out albums alternately on the two labels keeps them fresh longer.

HighNote/Savant will release 34 albums this year. Approximately 30 signed artists make up the label's roster. Vocalist Mark Murphy has consistently been named Down Beat's 'Best Male Jazz Singer Of the Year', and the late Etta Jones' release Lady Day received a 2003 Grammy nomination. The album was released the day Jones died. "She was the most self-effacing, normal, regular human being, with no ego. She was always cooperative, always recorded in good taste, was careful to choose her songs. When she died we really had a terrible loss. There is nobody who can replace Etta. She too is one of those artists that stood the test of time. Etta was one of the best. There's only a handful of these great ladies."

This month vocalist Ernestine Anderson releases her first album for HighNote. It's a collection of standards called Love Makes The Changes. She joins a group of female vocalists on the label including Sheila Jordan, Carol Sloane, Irene Reid, and Wesla Whitfield among others.

"These are singers that really have a unique style. They're not quasi-jazz singers who could be lounge acts, who really just don't know what it is as far as the lyric is concerned. These are super singers and Ernestine fits that mold."

Moving in on jam band territory, in September Savant released guitarist Rodney Jones' Soul Manifesto Live! and drummer Jim Payne's Sensei. In April the Melvin Sparks Band's What You Hear is What You Get came out. "Melvin grew up in that very music that you hear on his record," Fields explained. "He's not somebody who's faking playing funk, acid jazz, groove - that's Melvin. Melvin is the real thing no ifs, ands, or buts about it."

The times for the music industry have changed, but Highnote/Savant has adapted along with it. Fields remembered a simpler time when there were fewer recordings and companies. Salesmen traveled from store to store with the company's book. The albums were handpicked and put out on the shelves. Records were sent to radio stations where DJs instantly played the songs.

"Slowly the small record stores disappeared. Now the bulk of all sales are done through chains. Those account for 90% of all sales. It used to be you'd go to a store in one town. You'd go to another town there'd be a store. You'd go to the next town there'd be a store. And that disappeared."

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Hubro: Making Room for Marginalized Music Record Label Profiles
Hubro: Making Room for Marginalized Music
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: August 27, 2018
Read Origin Records: Creating Opportunities and Community Record Label Profiles
Origin Records: Creating Opportunities and Community
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 30, 2018
Read WEWANTSOUNDS: A Forgotten Don Cherry and Other Gems Record Label Profiles
WEWANTSOUNDS: A Forgotten Don Cherry and Other Gems
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: July 18, 2018
Read ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World Record Label Profiles
ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Inner Circle Music: Creativity and Community Spirit Record Label Profiles
Inner Circle Music: Creativity and Community Spirit
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: February 17, 2016
Read HOOB Records: Ten Years Young Record Label Profiles
HOOB Records: Ten Years Young
by James Pearse
Published: December 22, 2015
Read "Hubro: Making Room for Marginalized Music" Record Label Profiles Hubro: Making Room for Marginalized Music
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: August 27, 2018
Read "Origin Records: Creating Opportunities and Community" Record Label Profiles Origin Records: Creating Opportunities and Community
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 30, 2018
Read "Two on Umlaut Records with bassist Sébastien Beliah" Multiple Reviews Two on Umlaut Records with bassist Sébastien Beliah
by John Eyles
Published: August 28, 2018
Read "Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money" Multiple Reviews Rock Candy: Montrose (eponymous) & Paper Money
by Doug Collette
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "Istanbul Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Istanbul Jazz Festival 2018
by Luke Seabright
Published: July 12, 2018
Read "Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery" Live Reviews Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery
by Jonathan Manning
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Mark Sullivan's Best Releases of 2017" Best of / Year End Mark Sullivan's Best Releases of 2017
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017