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Kuai Music: Moving Jazz Forward Collectively

Kuai Music: Moving Jazz Forward Collectively
Jakob Baekgaard By

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Personally, I think working collectively is the only way to survive as musicians in today´s information-overdosed world. For us, the effort is paying off. —Juan Bayon
The history of jazz is often told as an evolution propelled by great individuals whose singular sounds have helped to shape the aesthetic of the music. This is understandable since artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis really DID influence the development of jazz and this is confirmed every time an upcoming musician is asked about his or her inspiration and mentions a musician from the canon of jazz.

Another advantage of telling jazz history through great individuals is that it is a convenient way of structuring an enormous amount of musical information and, finally, the story of the original individual fits the romantic conception of art that has dominated the discourse of music for a long time.

However, while history writing may be suited for emphasis on the contributions of the individual, the future of jazz lies in the hands of the collective. At least that is the opinion of the group of young Argentinian jazz musicians behind the label Kuai Music in Buenos Aires. So far, they include bassists Juan Manuel Bayon, Carlos Quebrada, Leonel Cajes, Maximiliano Kirszner and Mauricio Dawid, pianists Bruno Delucchi, Tomas Fares, Santiago Leibson and Paula Shocron, guitarists Matias Suarez, Francisco Slepoy, Damien Poots, Juan Pablo Hernandez and Ramiro Franceschin, saxophonists Juani Méndez and Miguel Crozzoli, drummers Fran Cossavella and Pablo Díaz and singer Jazmín Prodan. These musicians play on each other's records and have the willingness to work collectively. The result is an awe-inspiring body of work that is stylistically diverse, but still has the unique mark of quality that characterizes a great label.

AAJ: Who formed the label and was there any particular reason why it happened?

Mauricio Dawid: Kuai Music was founded by Damien Poots, Fran Cossavella and I in 2013. By the end of 2012, the three of us were about to finish our debut albums as bandleaders and were not so sure about what to do with them (in terms of edition/ distribution). We felt that the existing jazz labels were focused on other musical styles, so after a lot of discussion we decided that we needed our own platform to show our music. Besides, other friends were also recording their debut albums by that time, so we felt that it was a great opportunity to develop a website where people could listen to our music and know about us. Juan (Bayon) joined a couple of months later.

AAJ: What is the story behind the name? What does it mean?

Damien Poots: Kuai is hexagram number 43 in the ancient Chinese book I-Ching (or book of changes). Each of us was interested in the book at the time of choosing the name so it was natural to look for inspiration there. We ended up with Kuai, that means Break-through (Resoluteness). Among other important meanings it advised that "It does not further to resort to arms. It furthers one to undertake something." This was exactly our intention. To create a platform that would be helpful for our projects and for other artists of the Argentine jazz scene that we felt was much needed.

AAJ: Who are involved with the label and how do you run it?

Juan Bayon: At this point, Kuai is mainly run by four people, but with Fran relocating to Paris in late 2013 most executive decisions are taken by Damien, Mauricio and me. It works as a co-op, and every artist that joins the Kuai rooster is expected to understand that this is as much a responsibility as it is an advantage. We are not running a business in the traditional sense. Kuai is a label coordinated by artists with no interest in becoming full-time producers per se. We simply work together to generate higher visibility to each other´s releases. We are talking about a lot of people who would have been forced to take the self-release path anyway, so if you are going to invest all that money, time and effort in putting your own music out, you might as well get together with peers and friends who are in the same situation as you are. We are looking for strength in numbers here; I help other people´s releases be heard and in turn they help me back with my music. It´s a win-win situation. I believe that Kuai´s objective in the long-run should be to consolidate a catalog where people can expect a certain quality, a certain degree of musical risk-taking, beauty and enviroment where one artist´s record takes the listener to other people´s music he or she might not have been aware of. Other than that, we promote and help sell each other's records through the website and at shows, book concerts and produce video content for YouTube. Lately, we´ve been able to pay a publicist to handle press duties for us. It is a self-financed project at this point.

AAJ: What does it take to become a member of the Kuai collective? What is the process?


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