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A nice write up about Posi-Tone Records….

Reviewing the guys behind the glass and a label. Posi-Tone under the looking glass!

Recently I reviewed an artist that is a producer. Now I want to review some producers that are also record executives with Posi-Tone Records one of the finest straight ahead and swinging labels with an exciting stable of talent! Marc Free of course is the producer and Nick O’Toole is the engineer and together they create consistent high quality straight ahead jazz tailored to the artist while always keeping the listener in mind In short…if you dig the Rudy Van Gelder sound these guys are off the hook!

Tell us something about the history and origin of Posi-Tone?

M.f.  – “Posi-Tone was founded in Los Angeles in 1994 by producer Marc Free and engineer Jamie Brunson as a vehicle to make records by artists of all genres that they felt needed to be heard.  In 2004 after releasing a live recording of the Sam Rivers trio, Posi-Tone changed gears by bringing in Nick O’Toole as the in-house engineer and started focusing on recording New York City area jazz artists. Through the last few years, Posi-Tone has expanded it’s production with steady growth and released a wide variety of small ensemble instrumental jazz groups. Posi-Tone now boasts a catalog of over 90 titles by some of the best musicians in the world.”

I think knowing the real “mission statement” of the label can help the record buying public once they get a handle on taste…With that in mind, How would you describe the label and it’s intent to the casual listener?

M.F. – “We are actively focused on building a large catalog of recordings that will succeed in demonstrating to the worldwide marketplace the company’s high standards of artistic aesthetic and audiophile quality music products. Our mission is to gradually create and present a consistent label identity/brand with the stated intent of building an audience of new listeners and accumulating a sufficient niche market of discriminating music lovers who recognize, prefer and rely upon us as their choice for purchasing new premium quality music products. Posi-Tone’s records are intended to simply deliver the finest artistic expressions of modern, mainstream, and straight-ahead jazz, and is focused on directing it’s audience towards the sound and message of the music, and not just the populist or commercial aspects of its presentation.”

Is there a litmus test so to speak for the type of talent you look to record and with the economy still flat lining,
does that put you in the same position as every other business of trying to work smarter not harder and  have sales remained steady?

M.F. – “Here at Posi-Tone we are serious jazz geeks first and smart businessmen second. We sincerely believe our intended target audience is comprised of a bunch of people very much like ourselves in age and tastes, so we keep our primary A&R focus on making the kinds of jazz records that we know that we would want to buy and listen to. If a potential new artist’s music doesn’t bring on some serious jazz geeking around the office then we are definitely going to take a pass on doing a project. All that being said, the record also has to make good business sense too in terms of projected budgets and revenues. We aren’t in a position to provide artists with patronage, and we depend on our record sales to continue production, so we certainly can’t afford to overspend or lose money on too many projects and actually hope to stay in business. This of course makes the calculus of finding artists and planning projects that are a good fit for Posi-Tone much more difficult.”

 Ive read several articles where there is a debate over the quality of say a downloaded file or mp3 and that of a CD. Most people saying the CD is vastly superior. What do you think and is the death of the compact disc on the horizon or is it still several years out?

Nick O’Toole – “The sound quality of Cd’s, compared to MP3s is superior, but the audience is speaking pretty loudly that they like the convenience of the MP3 and that the sound difference is not noticeable to them.  It’s the economics of the MP3 that is changing how record labels must think to stay alive in today’s world.  Though sales are declining pretty quickly, we believe the CD still plays an important roll in the music business.  People still enjoy holding a product in there hands, and the press and radio still demand it.  The CD is also the best way for a jazz artist to give adorning fans at gigs a way to continue to enjoy the music and support the artist. We have tried other means, like download cards or stick drives, and they haven’t worked. We don’t see the CD dying anytime soon, as it is arguably the sonic pinnacle of commercial music, but it will probably play the role of satisfying the audiophiles, like vinyl does now.”

I want to thank Nick and Marc Free who guide a label that is more of a collaborative or perhaps jazz collective by design with a specific mission statement. As a critic, Posi-Tone may be one of three of the very best in straight ahead jazz that as I like to say “Swings hard or goes home.” Based an amazing stable of talent, a sincere commitment to the consumer and a genuine enthusiasm in doing the job the right way each and every time Posi-Tone is a label that is literally money when it comes to dropping a new release. Great sound quality and some of the hottest up and coming talent in the business. This one is easy:

On a personal note just wrapped up October with up and coming drummer Jordan Young, a Posi-Tone artist as our spotlight artist of the month. Be sure and check out Ed Cherry’s “It’s All Good” because…well, it is!

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Some props for Posi-Tone at Gallery 41….

FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2012

Just a few of the great new releases….

Focusing on just a few of the really terrific new releases, this time from Positone Records produced by Marc Free:Pianist Orrin Evans has a terific new trio date called “Flip The Script” with Ben Wolfe on bass and Donald Edwards playing the drums.

Flip The Script

Saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s new release is “Total Eclipse” and features Bowen in the company of organist Jared Gold, Rudy Royston on drums, and the marvelous guitar playing of Mike Moreno.

Total EclipseBrandon Wright on saxophone is joined by David Kikoski piano, Boris Kozlov bass, and Donald Edwards on drums on Brandon’s second recording as leader called “Journeyman”.


Come on by and share the music with us whenever you can!

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Brent Black reviews the new Steve Davis CD “Gettin’ It Done”…

 The latest and most appropriately titled release from trombone wizard Steve Davis proves that both Davis and his label Posi-Tone are if nothing but consistent in releasing some of the finest in straight ahead jazz. Variety, texture and some out of sight cover art make Gettin’ It Done a most impressive release with producer Marc Free getting that classic Rudy Van Gelder sound down but with his own unique touch. This sextet swings hard and at times sounds dangerously close to a small orchestra of perhaps double the size. Davis is what I refer to as a stealth musician, widely respected but never getting as much attention as he may deserve – until now!
Kicking things off with more of a mid tempo number the classic John Coltrane “Village Blues” is a nice  adventure is shifting harmonics and the horn section which is rounded out with Josh Bruneau on trumpet and Mike DiRubbo are on point with every note. The syncopated pop of the title track “Getting It Done” is a hard charging blast. The one tune I thought that may be a musical landmine is the cover of “Sunny.” The arrangement of “Sunny” takes the adult contemporary radio standard and flips it to a deceptively subtle swing which is a stroke of genius. One of the best tunes on this spotless release. Toss in a gorgeous ballad such as “Alike” and you have that nice all most forgotten working band sound that allows each member to shine. No bumps in the road here.
Arguably the best recording of Steve Davis to date. The rhythm section is worked out with Billy Williams on drums, Nat Reeves on bass and Larry Willis on piano and these guys sound like they have worked together for twenty years. I have long maintained you need to learn a little about a record label when it comes to making a purchase and Posi-Tone is simply classic swing brought up to date with some of the finest talent on the scene and Steve Davis is a perfect example.
From rock star cover art to inventive covers and great originals this disc swings. Period.
An easy 5 stars.
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Ralph Bowen “Total Eclipse” get reviewed on Outside Inside Out…

Marc Free’s Posi-tone Records is one of a handful of labels that churns out a significant number of quality albums on a regular basis.  In the past couple of months the label has sent numerous new releases my way, so today I’m hitting you with a multi-part rundown of some of my favorites.

I reviewed tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s last album, Power Play, in Downbeat.  In that review I compared Bowen’s sick chops and certain stylistic elements to Brecker, and thought his soprano approach was slightly reminiscent of Branford – comparisons which earned me a reaming out in a letter to the editor, even though it was a positive review.  Bowen’s followup to that album is Total Eclipse, which features Posi-tone mainstay Jared Gold on organ, guitarist Mike Moreno, and drummer Rudy Royston.  While I stand by my review of Power Play, I find Bowen’s playing on Total Eclipse(whether on tenor or soprano) to be extremely focused, sharp, swinging and reminding me of only one player: Ralph Bowen.

Bowen penned all nine of the hour long album’s tracks.  The title track opens the album in an easy, swinging fashion, with Bowen mixing up phrase lengths, rhythms and articulation and accent patterns – slinking, sliding, and winding his way through his solo.  On his brief solo Gold mixes a slightly percussive phrases based on short note values with  longer and more held out phrases, building upon Bowen’s statement nicely.  “The Dowsing Rod” features Bowen on soprano and is one metrically tricky trip, having sections in 10, in 3 and in 4.  Moreno sounds particularly good on this track, letting his slightly reverby sound and relaxed phrasing glide over Gold and Roysten.  The penultimate cut, “Hip Check,” is a rowdy and rocking showcase for Bowen’s aggressive tenor.  Royston holds things down with a slight backbeat and forward driving cymbals and Gold backs up Bowen’s solo by mixing up long sustained chords with quick jabs.  Moreno’s solo, supported by a very active Royston, is for the most part quite understated, providing a nice contrast to Bowen’s fire.

Overall Total Eclipse is an excellent outing that displays tight group playing, swinging charts containing a ton of craft and subtle hipness, and soloists who bring a firey intensity and creativity.  If you dig other releases on Posi-tone, or are a Ralph Bowen fan, then definitely check this CD out.  And if you’re not familiar with either, this album would be a great place to start.