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It takes a collector to know what a collector wants. Ekkehart Fleischhammer who runs the German reissue label Sonorama has been in the record business since 2004, but he has spent far more time enjoying and searching for music. His own expertise and sense of quality is the foundation for Sonorama Records whose specialty is the forgotten gems of the past and the rare items on the collector's market. The catalog consists of true gems in many genres: hard bop, cool jazz, bossa nova, fusion, soul jazz and even a record with a harp. Not much music escapes Fleischhammer's attention and he has also compiled some stellar compilations of funk and German jazz: The Color of Funk Vol. 1 and 2 and Now's the Time Vol. 1 and 2.
All About Jazz: When did you become owner of a record label?
Ekkehart Fleischhammer: I started it in June 2004 as a reissue-label for jazz, funk and soul with a 7inch vinyl record incl. an unreleased track by the legendary Elsie Bianchi Trio from Switzerland plus a re-edit by Ben Human (Ben Addison) on the flipside. Then I established my partnership with worldwide distributor Groove Attack, presenting a release schedule for the coming years that they immediately became interested in. After some releases I was able to join the German association of independent record manufacturers with Sonorama Records in 2006. The idea behind it is to expose quality music and rare or previously unreleased international items from the area of jazz, funk and soul music of the 1950s-1980s without the "high-brow" perspective of the jazz police.
AAJ: Why did you choose the name Sonorama? Is there a story behind the name?
EF: It is an old expression, a mixture of "Sonus" and "Panorama," so to say a panorama of vintage soundsas a kind of motto for the label work. Famous Mexican orchestra leader Juan Garcia Esquivel was supported by a so called "Sonorama Orchestra." Later I discovered that a long gone French television and radio magazine used the same name.
AAJ: As a collector of records, what do you look for? What makes a record collectable?
EF: It must always include good music and touch me in a spiritual sense. Even better if it is of historical importance regarding the available repertoire/ back catalogue of a genre and can be connected to other music and close a gap in certain fields of music that people or especially the record industry forgot about ... because of financial circumstances or greed. Good recordings are spontaneous artifacts from the past and that's why most of the good old jazz records were recorded in one take.
AAJ: How many people are involved with the label and what is your own role?
EF: Of course, there are many people involved, it may be with their work for the cover design, the mastering or with other kind of (sometimes idealistic) support. I am the only one responsible for the label as founder, researcher, licensor, compiler, product manager, writer of liner notes ... and buyer of toilet paper. After 80 releases up to date I have to say thanks and pay respect to many publishers, producers, musicians, other record labels and, and, and.... You know who you are and thanks for still letting me do this.
AAJ: Tell me about the packaging and design of your albums. Do you have a specific approach to the design of your albums and the inclusion of material like liner notes or photography?
EF: For 1:1 re-issues we always try to reproduce the original album cover and liner notes for vinyl LP and CD, while we develop our own designs and sleeve notes in case of compilations or albums including previously unreleased material. We use several sources for the licensing of original photos from the time the music was produced, incl. photos from German jazz archives, collectors' archives or directly from old jazz photographers. High quality cutting, analogue restoring and remastering has been done by specialists from Berlin and Cologne over the years. All our CD releases come in digipacks, mostly as fold out 6-page-digipack and sometimes including booklets. Design is very important to us, probably because we are collectors ourselves.
AAJ: You have many different genres on your label from many different countries. Is this a conscious choice or a coincidence? What would you say is your focus when choosing a record for release? What is the aesthetic criteria?
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.