Stablemates: A new record label brings Richmond’s jazz players together

Over the course of the summer, two long-time members of Richmond’s music scene have worked closely to build an independent record label, 32 Bar Records.

Over the course of the summer, two long-time members of Richmond’s music scene have worked closely to build an independent record label. Bassist Jason Jenkins and guitarist Alan Parker present 32 Bar Records, which as they describe, “…looks to champion unsigned musical talent, assisting in both album production and visual promotion of their art, as well as distribution. Along with jazz and non-jazz releases from its co-founders, the label’s early roster will include some of Richmond’s finest, with albums from these artists coming soon.”

The roster they speak of includes some of the finest musicians in the Richmond and Charlottesville areas:

In an association of this caliber, there are going to be some exciting releases coming at you very soon.

On Friday, October 19th, there will be a CD release for The Larri Branch Agenda at The Camel, they’ll go on at 9:30 PM, and will be followed by the NO BS! Brass Band. The door charge is $7.00.

32 Bar’s new holiday album A Season to Remember will be out soon, with a CD release at Capital Ale House Downtown on November 13th. The night is scheduled by The Richmond Jazz Society. The proceeds from A Season to Remember will go to benefit The Children’s Hospital of Richmond. Advance tickets are $15, and $20 on the day of the show.

Current releases

aP Connection – Juke

Alan Parker, who’s been one of Richmond’s leading voices on guitar for some years despite his youth, has a unique confidence and maturity in his playing. This trio outing features a mix of bop-inflected jazz, with hints of rock and backbeat driven funkiness at times. The sounds that Parker achieves even from a clean tone can range from silky smooth to brittle and almost brass-horn like. His skills as an improviser are abundantly present on each track, as are those of his grooving bandmates, Matt Hall (bass) and Billy Williams, Jr. (drums).

Jason Jenkins Quartet – Cole Porter Songbook

Bassist Jason Jenkins leads a band that features Alan Parker (guitar), Devonne Harris (drums), and Kevin Simpson (saxophones). They are joined by Newport News vocalist Charles Darden on two tracks that interpret Cole Porter’s most treasured songs. The band’s comfort level in swinging these standards makes this album cozy and relaxed.

The Larri Branch Agenda – Vol. 2

Labragenda (the short form for pianist Branch’s group) is a “working band,” meaning that the same musicians play each gig, and appear on each release. So it’s a close-knit unit, its own brand, and they offer a contrasting approach to standards and originals that is idiosyncratic in tone and texture. The interconnectedness among the members of the band, since they’ve been together for a decent gestation period of a couple years already, is what makes Labragenda such a kick.

Vol. 1, along with a CD of holiday music, have both worked to bring this group into their own. Chris Ryan’s guitar provides the urbanity, and the visceral statements of many melodies on the tracks. The hook-up of the bass and drums, by Brian Cruse and C.J. Wolfe respectively, has been something of a Richmond gem. They frequently work as a pair in other projects, and continue to develop as a rhythmic unit that emphasizes taste. Branch’s playing, from the first track, shows his wit and roots in gospel and the blues (I’m thinking of Otis Spann, Wynton Kelly, Joe Sample, and Vince Guaraldi in one tasty blend). The arrangement of Bud Powell’s “Tempus Fugit” is one that appears regularly in their live gigs. The short Salsa montuno that emerges as a part of the arrangement and gets brought into the solos is a delightfully clever and adventurous touch.

Charles Owens Trio – A Wealth in Common

A master saxophonist who relocated to Charlottesville after many years as a veteran of the New York jazz scene, Charles Owens leads a trio on this album of jazz favorites from the Great American Songbook as well as works by saxophone greats Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane among others. The trio comprised of sax, bass, and drums has an audacious spirit with no chordal backing instrument to supply instructive pathways for the improvising by Owens. He is free to phrase and explore harmony according to his own methods, and his interplay with drummer Devonne Harris and bassist Andrew Randazzo make this record daring and high-spirited.

Looking to the future

In the spring, the marvelous up-and-coming trumpeter Victor Haskins and his working band will record an album for the label, and other artists will be added, with hopes to bring classical artists as well as other non-jazz groups into the mix.

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Recording, mixing, and mastering on all of these releases have been completed here in Richmond by Lance Koehler at his studio, Minimum Wage Recording. CDs are for sale at the upcoming gigs, and also available online on iTunes and Spotify.

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David Tenenholtz

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