The new record label smallsLIVE, which captures live performances at the famed New York venue, Smalls Jazz Club, is set to release five new albums by saxophonist Jimmy Greene, drummer Ari Hoenig, bassists Omer Avital and Ben Wolfe, and a solo piano recording by club owner Spike Wilner. Each CD is simply titled Live at Smalls and features similarly striking black and white photographs of the artists. Each disc is generally the result of a two or three-night run, after which the artist is free to choose the best selection for their album.
The goal of the smallsLIVE releases is to capture every aspect of that experience (except for the drinks, which CD buyers will have to provide themselves). “We have this very unique environment called Smalls Jazz Club where night after night you have unbelievable artists performing,” says Spike Wilner, “and my goal is to preserve that and get it out to the world so people can hear it and appreciate it.”
Since it opened in 1993, Smalls has become a hothouse for modern jazz, where up-and-coming musicians can hone their craft before an enthusiastic crowd, and veteran artists can stretch out in front of an audience full of attentive and discerning ears. The smallsLIVE label is the latest and most visible result of the ongoing effort to retain the best qualities of a classic jazz club while taking advantage of new opportunities offered by modern technology. The label will have a digital distribution deal with iTunes.
Each performance at the club is streamed live on the Internet to approximately 40-50,000 listeners per month. Wilner has also posted an online archive of virtually every performance at Smalls, available through his website, http://www.smallsjazzclub.com.
“We’ve already got an international reputation among jazz musicians,” Wilner says, “but the audio archive and the video stream have increased our visibility and become a resource for musicians to discover new artists or hear the artists that they love. It’s creating a buzz internationally and we’re really reaching a very broad audience.”
Along with raising the profile of Smalls Jazz Club, the archive is rapidly becoming an important resource for the documentation of the modern jazz scene, which Wilner sees as an important outgrowth of the site and the label. “It’s a mission more than a business. We’re trying to preserve the music for as long as we can. I don’t know how long Smalls will last, but I want to make sure that when it does finally go, there is a legacy left behind for future historians.”
The smallsLIVE discs strive to recreate the atmosphere of the club by capturing the environment along with the music itself – a factor that many live albums try desperately to eliminate.
“One of the stars of the show is Smalls itself,” Wilner says. “The sound of the room is remarkable, and we want people to have the experience of being in the club, to hear the applause, the cash register ringing, glasses tinkling, announcements. We’re not a studio label. We’re going for a Saturday night at Smalls, where it’s packed, the waitresses are trying to get by with drinks, the artists are up on the stage joking around. That’s live jazz. That’s Smalls Jazz Club.”
For additional information on smallsLIVE, please visit http://www.smallslive.com