It is almost a truism that anyone who ever got into the jazz record business did it for the love of the music. Its practitioners and promoters do so despite the vagaries of the market and that market is, at this juncture, even tougher than previously. Yet, still, there are small and middling entrepreneurs that want this musicnew and oldout before a public. One such enterprising, struggling, yet passionate individual is Jerry Roche and the label he has birthed is Mighty Quinn Records.
Named not after a Dylan song or a Denzel Washington film, but after Roche's three-year old daughter, the label is the reflection of its owner's desire to see music that he grew up with back out in circulation. "It's criminal," says Roche, "that there is all this great music sitting on the shelves in the vaults of large and small labels and the true music loverssome of whom heard this music the first time aroundcan't get to it. I'm actually someone who has been a fan since I was a kid and that feeling is what prompted me to go on my own. It's been truly edifying and rewarding to be able to reissue some music that I loved as a kid and which would have very little chance of being reissued by a major label."
With the encouragement and assistance of Michael Cuscuna of Mosaic and Blue Note Records, Roche first got an opportunity to experience the joy of rediscovery in 2003. Cuscuna suggested he put together collections of instrumental music by guitar wizard Leo Kottke. He did that for Blue Note and the fever took hold. "I loved all sorts of music from any number of genres and when Michael responded well to the Kottkes I thought of other players that I'd always loved. Someone that came to mind was Earl King and, for the Okra-Tone label, I got to bring back his recordings for [the] Imperial labelgreat R&B guitar." The Greenwich, Conn. based Okra-Tone invited Roche to bring back some other recordings from the '50s-60s. "There were two rare Hank Jones sessionsPorgy and Bess and The Talented Touchon the United Artists label and Okra-Tone and I got them out on a single disc in 2004. This was followed by the incredible record by folk singer/guitarist Chris Smither (originally produced by Cuscuna in the '60s). It was then, in 2004, that I decided to do my own label and rediscover jazz gems."
Since 2004, Roche's Mighty Quinn label has brought back eight wonderful and rare recordings. He started with Take Aim, a 1960 session from Harold Land, and has subsequently issued sessions from Edmond Hall, Pepper Adams, Roy Ayers, Ray Nance, Don Ellis, Lou Rawls and Eddie Condon. Roche says, "These are special recordsheck, even my three year old daughter dances to Eddie Condonand I sometimes can't believe how fortunate I've been to be able to revive them. I have to see how the market goes to determine how many more such titles I can do, but I'm not going to be discouraged. I've decided to broaden the base of the labelafter all good music is good music. We've just released a new record by a brilliant pianist, Milcho Leviev." Leviev was associated with Don Ellis and Multiple Personalities is the pianist's solo tribute to Ellis' compositions.
And now comes something differentMighty Quinn is set to issue a brand new set from the stunningly talented guitarist Gary Lucas. Roche reveres Lucas and the players he's assembled for his Gods and Monsters band. "The bassist is Ernie Brooks from the Modern Lovers, the drummers are Jonathan Kane from the Swans and Billy Ficca from my favorite all-time rock band, Television. This is music that basically defies categoriesit's got elements of a lot of things in it. And later, we'll be issuing an album by the rock band Hello Dali." So, jazz is still in the picture for Roche and Mighty Quinn, but there will be more to the picture. Says Roche, "The market is changing in so many ways and I'm delighted to be seeing what those changes hold in store for us."