When George Klabin started Resonance Records, he had no idea he was planting the seed for a bumper crop of historic jazz recordings.
“We started with living musicians,” says Klabin, a veteran producer and engineer, “and it didn’t make the impact that it makes even now.”
That was a decade ago, and a lot has changed since. Most notably, Resonance is now an industry leader in deluxe archival releases, many of them new discoveries and all of them meticulously sourced and handsomely produced. The label catalog features sprung-from-the-vault gems from Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, Grant Green and others — and will soon include a trove of studio material from saxophonist, bass clarinetist and flutist Eric Dolphy.
The Dolphy release — a three-disc set titled Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Sessions — will be available on limited-edition vinyl on Nov. 23, with a wider release next Jan. 25. It contains two albums originally produced by Alan Douglas, Conversations and Iron Man.
Along with that music, featuring Dolphy alongside contemporaries like vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, bassist Richard Davis and, making his recorded debut, trumpeter Woody Shaw — the set will include 85 minutes of previously unreleased material, taken from tapes that had come into the possession of flutist James Newton. Among those unissued tracks is an alternate take of “Mandrake,” which has its premiere here.
As is the case with most high-profile Resonance releases, Musical Prophet comes with a lavish booklet packed with historic photographs and commissioned essays. (It runs 96 pages, with contributions from Chuck Stewart, Val Wilmer and Robin D.G. Kelley, among many others.) The initial, limited release will be a Black Friday exclusive for Record Store Day, a tie-in that the label has proudly cultivated.
It also arrives just as Resonance is celebrating its 10th anniversary, with all due ceremony. On Oct. 28 and 29, the label will take over Birdland in New York with an array of artists from its contemporary roster. Among them are clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Eddie Daniels, trumpeter Claudio Roditi, violinist Christian Howes, and vocalists Polly Gibbons and Aubrey Logan.
Resonance is also about to make its first foray into music streaming services, a meaningful gesture for a label that has placed such emphasis on controlled physical formats. As with everything else involving the label, it’s the product of much deliberation. “You cannot deny the fact that we are now living in a streaming world,” says Zev Feldman, who was promoted from general manager to co-president of the label this year. “So I wanted for us to find ways of coexisting in this realm without cannibalizing our releases.”
The resulting compromise will be a series of compilations on all digital platforms starting next February: selections from the label’s Montgomery and Evans stock, along with separate vocal and piano samplers, drawing from both the historic and present-day roster. If all goes according to plan, the presence of these tracks on streaming services will introduce Resonance to a wider listening public, raising its overall profile and eventually boosting sales. But Feldman and Klabin emphasize that they see the compilations as standalone products, made with intention.
“I like to think back to the time when Warner Brothers and Pacific Jazz used to churn out album samplers,” says Feldman. “Some of the artwork was really incredible.” In that spirit, Resonance has commissioned the noted graphic designer Takao Fujioka to create art for the compilations, which will also be available on CD.
Klabin, who has seen his label grow in unexpected ways, reiterates the point that it’s all of a piece. “There are enormous numbers of rare recordings that are hiding, still,” he says. “We’re going to continue to bring out some really important, unknown material. And if that is all we do, it’s very valuable. But of course we’re going to continue signing living musicians. Our goal is to keep mainstream jazz alive.”