José Francisco Tapiz: What was your contact with jazz and/or
improvised Music before the creation of Pi Recordings?
Seth Rosner: The label began really because I had
an opportunity to record Threadgill. That was pretty much the inspiration
for the label. I had worked at the Knitting Factory from 97-99 and
came away wanting to have my own label one day, if for no other
reason that to try and do things my own way and of course to build
an identity for a label that I saw. Having met someone who was and
still is associated with Threadgill at the Knit I knew Henry and
knew that he was ready to record again. At the time that I began
the label I was in school studying music, but once the label began
it demanded too much time and attention. I would like to go back
to school eventually though. If not to study performance than at
least to study in the studio and eventually become more hands on
in the studio. At this time I do not work in the studio with the
musicians at all.
José Francisco Tapiz: What's the reasons that lead you to create Pi Recordings?
Seth Rosner: Again from having worked at the Knit
I knew how to proceed in terms of setting up distribution, radio
and press promotion etc. It took about 8 months from incorporating
to recording the first 2 albums for them to come out. In that time
I built an identity, logo etc and proceed to record and manufacture
CDs. I first got with my distribution company by piggy backing with
another label. Once my releases for 2002 were starting up they offered
me my own contract. I started the label because with all of this
know how and ability I wanted to be able to start my label and work
with the music as I saw fit. Of course I was also anxious to record
and release the music that I love as well.
José Francisco Tapiz: Did you have some label in mind when
you were thinking of Pi as a project?
Seth Rosner: I hold ECM, Blue Note, Nessa, and
Arista from the 70s in very high esteem. I definitely have tried
to emulate the way Blue Note artists recorded on many different
albums with many different people, and eventually all sidemen became
leaders in their own right. And of course ECM for their adventure
choice of artists and attention to studio detail.
José Francisco Tapiz: What's the reason for such a mathematical name as Pi for
Seth Rosner: The number 3.14…… is endless,
never repeats itself, builds off of what has come before it and
clearly has a logic to it despite the fact that it might not be
apparent to the naked eye. I feel that great music should and does
do the same thing.
José Francisco Tapiz:
It's some kind of joke that Anthony Braxton plays compositions that
approximately number Pi 100 times in his duo with Wadada Leo Smith?
Seth Rosner: Very funny but no, no connection between
Pi and what Wadada and Braxton do together.
José Francisco Tapiz: You say that "you have a very specific goal
towards working with composers". How do you try to reflect
this in Pi releases?
Seth Rosner: The composers that we work with all
record original music for us and many of them have their own musical
systems that they work with. I am thinking here of Henry and Wadada
especially. The goal of working with specific composers comes out
in our choice to only work with people who record their own compositions,
as opposed to standards and other songs well associated with jazz
and who have their own music and original approach to recording
music. This takes years to develop which is one of the reasons that
we have worked primarily with older established musicians who have
been putting their music together for their entire life, and one
of the reasons why it is so difficult to find younger musicians
with whom we can work and who we believe are carrying on the torch
and tradition set out for them by people such as Threadgill and
José Francisco Tapiz:
Can you tell us the name of some young musicians that are developing
a personal languaje and that in a near future could be recording
on your label?
Seth Rosner: Some young musicians who are developing
their own language that could one day wind up on Pi might be Rudresh
Mahanthappa, Craig Taborn, Mark Shim, and Dafnis Prieto to name
a few. Please keep in mind that some of the people above are in
my opinion in the midst of developing their language and direction
in music, all musicians are of course but perhaps some of these
artists are at an earlier stage than others, but I think that they
all show potential and the earnest motivation and ability to accomplish
what I think many of the older musicians that we have worked with
José Francisco Tapiz:
In your first releases, composition and arrangements play a very
important role. In your two more recent releases (AEOC & Braxton-Smith
duo) I think that the improvisation is more important than the composition-arrangements.
Are you going to work with some kind of instant compositions or
free improvisation in future releases?
Seth Rosner: I don’t have much interest in
instant composition or free music per se. Albums by Wadada and the
AEOC do have more of a focus on improvisation than say Threadgill
or Vijay, although I feel like Fieldwork rely as heavily on improvisation
as they do, they are still within the context of a very strong personal
sound and mode of writing. Whether that be Wadada’s use of
his musical system Ankhrasmation or Braxton’s own compositions
that draw from his many different bags to the way that the AEOC
have created a dialogue and language between themselves that is
all there own. On top of that I consider the AEOC’s use of
little instruments and their percussion pieces to be a level of
composition/improvisation that is much different than the improvisation
or instant composition that you mention, although there are similarities
José Francisco Tapiz: Is there some other musicians with a very personal
language you would like to record specially?
Seth Rosner: Well I have always thought that if
I got to record Ornette Coleman I would stop right there and never
release another album. I would not stop but Ornette, and I am not
speaking just about music here because everyone that I have worked
with has accomplished something very important, but that beign said
Ornette has certainly accomplished more than most people out there
so to be able to work with him and document his music would be a
serious accomplishment and goal for the label.
José Francisco Tapiz:
You have just released two records of "newcomers": Liberty
Ellman and Vijay Iyer. What are you planning for the next year?
Apart from them (Ellman & Iyer), do you have any other new group
or musician (I'm thinking of such a surprise as Fieldwork was in
2002) for the next year? Is there going to be a next Fieldwork release?
Seth Rosner: Next year we will be releasing another
album by the AEOC recorded in the same time period and the second
set of Wadada/Braxton that was recorded that night at Tonic in NYC.
Fieldwork are beginning to work on a new direction for their music
and I do not know if they will be ready to record next year unfortunately.
I had hoped that they would but it does not seem to be realistic.
I am always speaking with Vijay about other projects though and
it does look like we may do something next year together again.
I believe that Liberty will wait to record a little while before
he goes back in as he has a different approach to how he wants to
work behind an album. There are other younger artists out there
though that we would like to work with and I would not be surprised
to see one of them record for the label. It is my intent to grow
the label with both the older and younger generations side by side.
José Francisco Tapiz: The two first releases of Pi recordings meant
the comeback of Henry Threadgill to jazz recordings. Are you planning
to record and/or release some new records of this great musicician?
Seth Rosner: I would love to record Henry again
when the time is right. That is a decision left up to Henry though
and we have not discussed it yet. I hope that we have a moment to
discuss it some time soon though as I value his music in the highest
sense and want very badly for the label to continue with him, but
as you know Henry has recorded for many labels.
José Francisco Tapiz:
Somebody says that we're living some kind of crisis in jazz and
in the music bussines. What's your perception about it?
Seth Rosner: The musical crisis that is happening
now has less to do with jazz than it does with what I think many
people look for out of life. I think that for one thing as life
becomes more complicated, as I believe it inevitably does as a culture,
world, society etc grows older we want simpler things from our forms
of entertainment. We do not want to be challenged as much because
we are looking at entertainment to take us away from the daily challenges
that life supplies. On top of that of course the role of jazz has
changed from what it originally was, not so much because of the
musicians working within that field but because of the possibilities
out there. Many of these possibilities will lead in directions that
at first glance are not as rewarding as earlier possibilities therefore
seem less appealing. It requires an interested and inquisitive person
to see that with time these choices open up even more possibilities
than one could ever imagine and that that in turn delivers us more
experiences and heightens our life. As all of life grows the choices
become greater. Some people will want to embrace those choices and
some will not. As far the business goes I feel very good about the
ability to get music out there to people. Whether it be through
the internet which allows you and I to speak and trade ideas much
more rapidly than was once thought, or just the ability to record
and document music more cost efficiently do to advances in technology.
The real challenge to the industry now is in trying to foster an
environment where artists can grow and develop their craft. Too
often the next big/young thing comes along and is thrust out there
with high hopes only to return with the same results as many who
have come before them. They lose their record deals and never have
a chance to grow in an environment where they can be seen by large
audience and that audience can become familiar with them. With time
the audience for jazz can grow if they see someone developing and
can follow that artist’s growth.
José Francisco Tapiz:
For you, what are the future paths of jazz?
Seth Rosner: I am looking for the internet to allow people
to hear and see this music who would never have that chance. I think
that that is the future. Bands tour less now unfortunately, so they
must rely on the internet to get their message out there. It has
worked thus far in terms of getting music out there so I see the
next logical step as live performances via the internet. This will
hopefully result in growing the audience for music and then eventually
lead to the demand the band to perform live. As for the direction
of the music, well my tastes obviously lead me to seek out composers
who write their own music and develop their own systems of music
just as most of the founders and legends that we all hold in such
high esteem did.
©José Francisco Tapiz, Tomajazz
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