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Rivorecords: Blue Notes from Buenos Aires

Rivorecords: Blue Notes from Buenos Aires
Jakob Baekgaard By

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In the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, a blue note is defined as: "A microtonally lowered third, seventh, or (less commonly) fifth degree of the diatonic scale, common in blues, jazz and related musics."

Moving beyond musical theory, the term is most commonly associated with the groundbreaking jazz label Blue Note, founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff.

The label epitomizes the golden age of modern jazz in the 50's and 60's where a perfect balance was struck between tradition, in the shape of blues and standards, and a personal expression that allowed the music to flourish into highly sophisticated art, without losing the basic bodily feeling of the groove.

To many people, Blue Note still remains the gold standard of jazz, and this is also the case with Justo Lo Prete, who runs the exquisite Argentinian jazz label Rivorecords, which was formed in August, 2010. As he says: "We mainly record standards and try to recover some of the things jazz had in the '50s and early '60s, as regards the aesthetics of the music, the recording technique—all musicians are recorded in the same room and we choose the best take, without editing—and to a certain extent the cover art, design and concept of those records."

Taking a look at a record like trumpeter Mariano Loiacono's What's New, it is clear that there's an occasional touch of inspiration from Blue Note's famous graphic designer Reid Miles, but the releases on Rivorecords have their own distinctive style and approach, as Lo Prete explains: "I really like to be involved in that specific aspect, as I have been looking at record covers and booklets for the last 25 years! I consider myself responsible for this approach, with its hits and misses. As you can see, I favor the musicians' photo aesthetic on the CD covers, and in the inside or the cardboard triptychs. Horacio Sbaraglia is the label's photographer—almost all of the cover/inside CD photographs were taken by him. Horacio and Carlos Melero (engineering) deserve special mention, as both work with loving care, and completely ad honorem for Rivorecords. As for liner notes, I generally find them quite uninteresting. From my point of view, to write an interesting liner note, which adds useful or valuable information, is VERY difficult; so with the internet overloaded with information, just listen to the music and enjoy it. Keep things simple. Just jazz standards; no science behind, I guess."

Francisco Lo Vuolo: Segment recording session: L to R: Cristian Bortoli, Lo Vuolo, Eloy Michelini.

As a label owner and producer, Lo Prete has an active approach to record making: "I try to get involved at all stages of the process, from the moment we start to envision the record to the day it is launched. Although I stick to these rather strict principles, I try to give musicians as much freedom as I can when it comes to choosing the repertoire and in some strictly musical aspects—tunes and arrangements and so on. As I am not a musician, I give them the point of view of a "regular" listener, and that helps to strike a balance between the opinion of a professional and that of an amateur. I think that is a healthy aspect."

When it comes to recording, a particular studio is preferred: "Rivorecords has recorded all of its studio productions in SoundRec, a studio I feel comfortable with. And the team of Ricardo Sanz, main engineer at SoundRec, and Carlos Melero, a very nice man and close friend with tons of experience and a huge ear, work wonders as far as the sound I have in mind, and in a very relaxed atmosphere. I really think that is reflected in the music. I tend to favor an in-studio-live approach."

Lo Prete highlights pianist Paula Shocron and trumpeter Mariano Loiacono as two musicians who have helped to shape the label's sound, but as he says: "I feel comfortable with most of the records, and the musicians I´ve worked with so far. I really like piano trios, and I´m very happy with the piano trios Paula Shocron, Ernesto Jodos and Francisco Lo Vuolo made for Rivorecords. Maybe the latter is not as well-known as Paula and Ernesto, but he is a very very sensitive player."

Every record in the catalog matters, but as Lo Prete says: "Well just to avoid answering the usual "every record I´ve produced holds a special place..." I will say that I´m a bit biased towards Gustavo Musso´s Our Song, as I have always dreamed about "making" some kind of Art Pepper tribute thing, and Gustavo turned out to share my view, and came up with a beautiful, and beautifully short, record. To be fair, also being able to bring the great Kirk Lightsey from Paris- -in association with the city of Buenos Aires Government, for the city´s Jazz Festival—and recording him in a very nice venue was great; finally, saxophonist Carlos Lastra's double live CD was a personal wish."


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