Rudi Records: Reviving the Avant-garde

Rudi Records: Reviving the Avant-garde
Jakob Baekgaard By

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the avant-garde as: "an intelligentsia that develops new or experimental concepts especially in the arts." In jazz, the expression, at least to some, has negative connotations, describing music that is introverted, noisy, pretentious and/or difficult to understand. That negative image usually results from the fact that the music requires of the listener patience and a wide open mind; it doesn't replicate the predictable listening provided by pop product.

In spite of the prejudice and challenges the avant-garde faces, there are always, fortunately, record labels who support the creation of experimental music. Massimo Iudicone, who runs the Italian jazz label Rudi Records, is one of the true musical developers in his country, who has done much to expand the horizons of the listening public—both as an organizer of concerts and as label owner. Music is simply in his blood. As he says: "founding Rudi Records was almost a natural requirement. For years, I was involved in artistic productions and the organization of festivals. The step from concert production to producing records has occurred naturally, although it took several years."

Iudicone named his label Rudi Records because: "I wanted a short name and I had a graphical interest in the double R." The logo of the label is indeed beautiful, as is the sound of the words, with the perfectly palatable alliteration. The look is important to Iudicone and he is working closely with graphic artist Ale Sordi: "With Ale Sordi, we decided to have a very clear graphic layout: a Rudi Records CD must be immediately recognizable. We are working with some great photographers to give the covers a strong impact."

In true avant-garde fashion, Iudicone isn't inspired by other labels. What he cares about is the music he discovers. He prefers live recordings: "I come from the world of music production, my interest is to propose, document and protect a certain type of music. I have not been inspired by albums or labels, but only by love for this music that is full of vitality. The creative process itself is very exciting. When possible, I prefer to have live recordings. The highest moment of creativity is often during concerts. The interplay between the musicians and the dialogue with the public is crucial."

Speaking of the musical climate in his country, Iudicone says: "Jazz in Italy is not followed by mass media. This pushes many concert organizers to invite only the most prominent and famous musicians, leaving a wealth of music full of life, light and creativity behind. However, in recent years, schools of jazz, as well as the academic courses at the conservatory, are completely besieged by many young jazz musicians who feel this music could be a possible channel for communicating their art and soul."

While Iudicone senses a positive spirit of exploration among young people, he is also aware of a development that is possibly problematic: "Today, musicians are much more technically prepared than before and their knowledge of music and their instrument is certainly more thorough, thanks also to new technology. But it is as if these technicalities, or the excessive care of virtuosity, stop many musicians from finding their own voice and highlighting their own individuality. It is as if there is a standardization of music, a uniformity of the sound. The trail that Rudi Records very humbly wants to take in the wide world of jazz is to give prominence to individuality. To shed light on some strictly authentic musical voices who are often ignored."

Iudicone is succeeding. Rudi Records' catalog brims with quality music. When asked about particular highlights, Iudicone answers: "There are highlights in all of my records, some projects, such as Re-Union by Satta Bellatalla Spera, are completely created by me. The trio had never played together. After suggesting the trio for a concert, I followed the work of musicians for about a year and then persuaded them to record. Also, on Wind & Slap by Giancarlo Schiaffini and Sebi Tramontana, some of the tracks on the CD are taken from a concert that I organized in Rome during the same days of the studio recording. I think it is important because it gives the opportunity to hear another voice of the duo."

Summing up Iudicone's passionate approach to record production is his statement that: "There is something of me in all of my discs and all are a bit like little children to care for and follow with great attention and respect."

When it comes to the future of the record business, Iudicone is generally positive: "the digital revolution does not scare me, and perhaps it is a way of getting into some countries where it would be difficult for a young label like Rudi. I also think it is an efficient means to combat music piracy. Of course, the fact remains that it is important to me that there is a physical product. In addition to CDs, I would like to press on vinyl someday. l have not produced an all-digital album yet, but I just transferred the whole catalog to various digital platforms."

Speaking of his release schedule, Iudicone says: "The last album was released in May, the next will be an all-Italian project, and in the fall there will be a release with a European trio." When it comes to the future, the goal is to establish the label as a long term entity: "In just 15 months, Rudi Records has created its own identity, something that is very important to me. Album after album, I hope to follow the path I've taken so far."

Eugenio Columbo—October SongsEugenio Colombo / Raffaella Misiti

October Songs: Play the Songs of Leonard Cohen


October Songs, the album by flutist and saxophonist Eugenio Colombo and singer Raffaella Misiti is one of the most traditional and experimental outings in the Rudi catalog. As the subtitle, Play the Songs of Leonard Cohen, reveals, the subject is the music of singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen.

The minimalistic approach of the duo is commendable. Without any form of embellishment, they aim straight for the existential core of the songs and dig out a naked beauty that is sometimes lost in Cohen's own arrangements of his songs.

The seemingly impossible task of finding a fresh approach to classics like "Hallelujah" and "Suzanne" is solved with natural ease. The former receives a chilling a cappella treatment, with Misiti's voice spiraling through an imaginary cathedral, while the latter is strengthened by Colombo's dancing saxophone that playfully wraps itself around the tuneful recitation of the lyrics.

The duo also contributes an original, "Little America," an elegiac composition sung in Italian, filled with mournful and passionate poetry.

In spite of the pared down line-up, the album manages to unite everything from jazz and improvisation to ancient folklore and Dadaism, all seen through the wonderfully twisted looking-glass of Leonard Cohen's compositions.

Giancarlo Schiaffini—Wind & SlapGiancarlo Schiaffini / Sebi Tramontana

Wind & Slap




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