You have obviously listened to a great deal of music. Did this enable you to use any other record labels as a model or guide for MoonJune, and if so what were they? LP:
No. I really never tried to model MoonJune after any other label. ECM probably ranks as my all-time favorite record label, and a major inspiration. There are others that I like, but each circumstance is different. I could not possibly compare myself to ECM: When I started I didn't have any infrastructure, any distribution, I didn't have anywhere close to the necessary capital to launch a real label. Honestly, I didn't even have any long-term plans. I just started releasing records in 2001, and suddenly became a label, without realizing at the full extent what that rally means. Once again, that live musical dialogue between John Coltrane and Rashied Ali is relevant here: It's all improvisation.
In retrospect, and to be completely candid, I'm not sure I ever had any model or guide in my life for anything! My life was always about improvisation, survival, pursuing my passions, and navigating "on the fly." I was mostly doing bookings, and the label was a side business. I released only a small handful of albums between 2003 and 2006, and wasn't even sure if I would continue. In 2004, I even thought about moving to Singapore in 2004, but I opted to stay in NYC. AAJ:
Have you ever explored the financial practicality of merging with another independent or a similar type arrangement? LP:
In 2006, I was approached by a major independent record company run by a good friend and music business veteran, Bill Hein. An offer was made for MoonJune Records to become an associate label, distributed, marketed and promoted by Rykodisk through a three-pronged line of products: MoonJune productions, Allan Holdsworth's back catalog and new releases, and progressive rock legends Nektar
's back catalog. I saw this as a giant opportunity, and Bill Hein really liked my passion for music and my unusual way of thinking.
Unfortunately, these big plans got put on hold. Bill Hein left for a larger labelEMIbut promised that EMI would put together any even bigger, more lucrative deal. It wasn't until August of 2007, when I became aware of the impending purchase of EMI by the multinational corporation Terra Firma, that I realized this deal was never going to happen. It was not only a shock but a kind of epiphany: My destiny, and that of MoonJune Records, laid in being fully and truly independent. AAJ:
If it's all improvisation, is it all jazz? LP:
That's why I called my latest compilation It Must Be Jazz
. In the light, it's really all jazz. Even music that is nearly impossible to categorizeour MoonJune specialtyis really all jazz in spirit, and all improvisation. So, you are correct.
While I was living in New York in the 1990's, I was privileged to meet Hamiet Bluiett
. He used to do recording sessions and when producers would ask him if he could do another take of a song he'd say, "I can do another take, but it's not going to be "another take;" it's going to be another tune, entirely, because I don't know what I'm going to play." He always said, "Whatever I play, that's it." The same thing holds true for me. AAJ:
In a catalog full of instrumental and improved music, how did you determine what music to leave OFF that compilation? LP:
That was actually sort of an improvisation, too. When I promote my albums, I reach out to so many different people: people in jazz, progressive rock, fusion, in classic rock, all kinds of music. Many timesespecially when I deal with progressive rock hallsI hear people say, "Music from MoonJune is fusion
or "It's jazzy or it's this or it's that..."
So I thought about it, and, yeah, I'm not a real jazz label, but actually I am. If that makes any sense. That's how I decided to make this sampler.
I grew up listening to a great diversity of music and never divided music into jazz or blues, or rock, progressive or fusion. I did not feel the need to categorize or "pigeonhole" artists or their music. I listened for the sheer love of music. When I was a teenager, I bought albums by Ravi Shankar
, Black Sabbath
, Sun Ra
, Neil Young
, Jethro Tull
, Paco De Lucia
, Ella Fitzgerald
, Lucio Dalla, James Last
, Ian Dury, and John Lee Hooker
. That much variety. For me, it was simply about embracing the music that I liked, music that touched me on an emotional level. Of course, I knew that certain music was rock and other music was blues or jazz, but to me labels were not important. It was all music. After hearing thousands and thousands of albums over the last forty-plus years, I realized that a significant ingredient of many albums was certain characteristics and/or elements of jazzand that this was true of my label, too.
I have a couple of albums on my label that would be considered "jazz" if you were to talk to someone at a jazz conservatory, a purist. I do have a lot of other jazz, so why not put together a compilation, promote that compilation, and fans can download this music and listen to different kinds of jazz?
The It Must Be Jazz
compilation provides around three hours of music, and the song lineup works nicely, I think. Some tunes are more "jazzy," other tunes are less so, but it's all jazz in the end. The name comes from a tune on one of my albums composed collectively by Allan Holdsworth, Alan Pasqua
, Jimmy Haslip and Chad Wackerman, for their album, Blues for Tony
. I named the compilation It Must Be Jazz
because, no matter what, it must be jazz.