Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved reader experience across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Sunnyside Records


Sign in to view read count
A girl in a sailor dress skips rope. She's pretty, she's free, she's having fun. She's the logo for Sunnyside Records. Founder Francois Zalacain discovered her on a rubber stamp in a Greenwich Village shop 21 years ago. "It says everything we want to say. Music is about bouncing' dancing. And my wife liked it."

With no binding contracts, no specific mission, and an acceptance of any jazz style, Sunnyside is a relaxed independent label. They simply release music that they like, from a flirtatious disc of boleros from Spanish singer Martirio, to an eloquent disc from pianist Laurent Coq. They also license albums from European labels that otherwise would not be available in the United States.

Zalacain started the company in 1982. He met pianist Harold Danko one night at the Village Vanguard and a friendship ensued. When Danko had the idea to make a duo disc with bassist Rufus Reid, Zalacain rented a studio and recorded the album. Soon after he recorded Kirk Lightsey playing solo piano. A Lee Konitz album followed, and without meaning to, Zalacain had established a record label. Two decades later, hundreds of CDs make up Sunnyside's catalog. Since they don't lock their artists into signed contractual agreements, Sunnyside's relationship with their artists is more like an affair than a marriage, Zalacain explained. "They stay with us because they like to stay."

Some artists have been with the label for many years. Singer Meredith d'Ambrosio just released her 14th album Love Is For The Birds. Jerry Gonzalez has recorded four discs on Sunnyside since the mid '80s. And others are just starting out the jazz life. The 29- year-old trumpet player Michael Leonhart has already released his third disc on Sunnyside. Pianist Guillermo Klein, also in his late 20s released his second album Los Guachos III after his highly successful Sunnyside debut Los Guachos II. 32-year-old pianist Deidre Rodman's second album Simple Stories comes out this month. Sunnyside released her debut Sun Is Us after it arrived in the mail two years ago. "After listening to it once, I picked up the phone and called her," he said.

Usually Sunnyside finds new artists through their current ones. Zalacain met Leonhardt after going to see pianist Guillermo Klein's band play. "It happens the way you make friends," he said. "A friend invites you to his house - you make a new friend."

Last year Zalacain met the Dutch saxophone player Mark Mommaas. "[Armen Donelian] didn't play solo all the time because he invited Mark up for some duets. It was obvious to everyone in the audience that this guy was extraordinary." Mommaas happened to be finishing up a project and he didn't have a label. Sunnyside is releasing his album Global Motion this month.

Aside from good music, Sunnyside looks for a unique voice. "That's what you're looking for," said Zalacain. "Why is a jazz singer going to attract your ear? Because she has something unique. It's the same with instrumentalists."

The biggest thrill so far came last year when Brazilian singer Luciana Souza's album Brazilian Duos was nominated for a Grammy. "The nomination was very surprising, because it was a record of Brazilian songs. She sang in Portuguese. To be nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album was a happy surprise," Zalacain said.

The crew went to Madison Square Garden for the event and waited for three hours for the Jazz Vocal Album category. Diana Krall won, as the group had expected, so they set off for a nice dinner at the trendy, French-Thai restaurant, Vong. When they arrived, the host asked them where they had come from. They told him they had been at the Grammy Awards. He said "My father was a musician." "He was the son of Lee Morgan!" exclaimed Zalacain. "We didn't win the Grammy but we met the son of Lee Morgan that night."

This year, 80 percent of Sunnyside's releases will be licenses; Two years ago, it was only two percent. This dramatic increase resulted after the label signed on with Ryko for distribution. Many licenses come from France. Last year Sunnyside put out a French chanson compilation called Caf' De Flore, Rendez-Vous A Saint-Germain Des-Pres. Originally recorded for Universal France, the disc was popular in America. This month Sunnyside will release eight licensed albums from the French label Owl, a division of Universal. Some were recorded over ten years ago, including pianist Steve Kuhn's Oceans In The Sky, with bassist Miroslav Vitous, and drummer Aldo Romano; a duo album called No Tears No Goodbyes with singer Helen Merrill and pianist Gordon Beck; pianist Paul Bley and bassist Gary Peacock's duo disc Partners ; and another duo album called Paris Blues, with pianist Gil Evans and saxophonist Steve Lacy. Sunnyside also licenses albums from the Spanish label Karonte, including a beautiful album from the pianist Chano Dominguez.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World Record Label Profiles ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Inner Circle Music: Creativity and Community Spirit Record Label Profiles Inner Circle Music: Creativity and Community Spirit
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: February 17, 2016
Read HOOB Records: Ten Years Young Record Label Profiles HOOB Records: Ten Years Young
by James Pearse
Published: December 22, 2015
Read Kuai Music: Moving Jazz Forward Collectively Record Label Profiles Kuai Music: Moving Jazz Forward Collectively
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 10, 2015
Read Real World Records: Passion and Authenticity are Fundamental Record Label Profiles Real World Records: Passion and Authenticity are Fundamental
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 8, 2015
Read 7Dreams: The Story of a Country, a Friendship and a Sound Record Label Profiles 7Dreams: The Story of a Country, a Friendship and a Sound
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: January 28, 2015
Read "ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World" Record Label Profiles ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Benguela: Cape Town Improv Trio" Forests of Sound Benguela: Cape Town Improv Trio
by Mick Raubenheimer
Published: November 28, 2017
Read "Umbria Jazz 2017" In Pictures Umbria Jazz 2017
by Andrea Rotili
Published: July 26, 2017
Read "Kronos Festival 2017" Live Reviews Kronos Festival 2017
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Glen Campbell: 1936-2017" Profiles Glen Campbell: 1936-2017
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 13, 2017
Read "Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959" My Blue Note Obsession Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959
by Marc Davis
Published: March 21, 2017
Read "Another Timbre’s Canadian Composers Series" Multiple Reviews Another Timbre’s Canadian Composers Series
by John Eyles
Published: April 22, 2017