The Spirit of Cecilia Interview: Record Store Day 2022 with “Jazz Detective” Zev Feldman

Back in 2020, I talked with archival producer Zev Feldman about his ongoing efforts to make great, officially unreleased recordings by titans of jazz available the right way — with state of the art sound, lavish documentation and full payment to musicians (or their estates) and other rights-holders. As co-president of Resonance Records and consulting producer for Elemental Music, this year Zev is responsible for five new sets he’s shepherded toward release on LP this Record Store Day, April 23rd; links to each album’s Bandcamp page (which offer CD and download pre-orders for April 29th release) are below!

It was a delight to catch up with Zev again and talk about this cornucopia of fine jazz from the vaults! Listen to our conversation below; transcribed highlights follow the jump.

On Bill Evans’ Buenos Aires recordings, Morning Glory and Inner Spirit:

There is a journalist in Buenos Aires named Roque Di Pietro. I was first contacted by Mr. Di Pietro because there’s a gentleman, Mr. Carlos Menero, who made these recordings and had these original tape reels. Roque was aware of the work that we had been doing for some time at Resonance to put out these projects. And he explained to me that he was in possession of the tape reels.

I was aware that each of these concerts had been released in very limited collectors’ bootlegs years ago. And some people had heard the music, but it had never had an official release; the musicians never got paid; publishing never got paid. And there was really an opportunity for us to revisit these two performances.

And I think that when you listen to this music – first of all, it stands on its own. This is Bill Evans at his very, very best. But it gave us an opportunity to discuss why these were important. These were the two documents of the two times that he went down there. You listened to the audience, who erupts in applause; you hear that it’s a passionate audience in both cases. They loved jazz, they loved Bill Evans and this was a chance! He played very large concert venues when he was down there for hundreds of people! So this was a real special event; it was a really important time for Bill that we’ve now officially documented. This is not just gonna be some grey market release, like you said; this is gonna have a real launch and release. And I hope that individuals will continue to discover this music for decades to come. It’s a permanent exhibit at Resonance Records, for sure!

On Evans’ trio partners (bassist Eddie Gomez & drummer Marty Morrell in 1973, bassist Marc Johnson & drummer Joe LaBarbera in 1979):

[Fantasy Records’ release The Tokyo Concert] was some of the first Bill Evans I listened to, the interplay between Bill, Eddie and Marty. And it was just incredible! Talk about telepathic powers and being able to communicate in a different language. I think there is a reason why these guys played together for so many years. There was just a great chemistry! So it was an amazing period, and they were still together for a few years after this as well. And that’s personally very thrilling.

But talking about Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera – come on!! Later Bill Evans is something that I love too. I gotta tell you, Rick . . . those were some of the recordings that really opened me up and blew my mind!

And I’ve said this before, it’s like a different roux, a different kind of sauce, if you will. There’s something that’s cooking! And it’s the different flavors of these guys mixed. And they’re both great, and they taste great! But there was something so wonderful and beautiful about the chemistry of each of these trios. And they’re wonderful in their own right. And they’re different experiences – different flavors, different textures, different things that are going on in the music. And that’s because Bill knew how to choose the guys who he performed well with.

On Mingus’ The Lost Album:

This has gotta be, first of all, one of the longest projects that we’ve been involved with in terms of incubating it along, getting it to happen. So much of what we do, sometimes it takes years and years to come together. This is a project that I first started speaking with Sue Mingus about in 2011. I was aware that Mingus had recorded an album; it was actually done direct to 8-track tape; and also with a mobile recording company that came out to Ronnie Scott’s in London on August 14 and 15, 1972. And they recorded this band of Mingus (of course), Jon Faddis on trumpet – a young Jon Faddis, I believe he was 19 at the time! The legendary saxophonist Charles McPherson, who played with Mingus longer than anybody. The late tenor saxophonist Bobby Jones; pianist John Foster. And the amazing drummer– and yes, he also plays the musical saw here, folks! — Roy Brooks.

I think, first, what we have on Mingus: The Lost Album is a very underrepresented band that Mingus had in this brief window. I mean, some of these guys played with him at different times; but this is the one document that exists of this band that we know about! I also wanna say that there are some compositions that were actually new at the time! “Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues,” part 1 & 2; also there’s “Mind-Readers’ Convention in Milano (AKA Number 29)”; “The Man Who Never Sleeps”. This is Mingus recording very prolific pieces of music.

You don’t need an owner’s manual. Just let the music speak for itself. I just think there’s a lot of genius represented here; Mingus is just such an important figure in American music, and especially at this time in the centenary of his birth.

On Albert Ayler and Revelations:

These were made in August 1970, just a few months before Albert Ayler tragically passed away. This is a partnership, by the way, as is the Chet Baker, with INA-France. They’re a division of the French government; they oversee the radio and television archives. And because of our reputation and who we are, they allow us to do periodic searches into their archives. And if we find something, if the music checks out and I can come to an agreement to pay all the rights holders, they license us these recordings! And that’s what happened here.

This is a 5-LP and a 4-CD set, and it includes over two hours of previously unheard recordings. And there was a bootleg that had come out of the recordings that utilized a portable tape recorder put on the stair of the stage! But basically these recordings come from microphones that were positioned, recorded in glorious stereo, and we put it together! It’s a trifold and a gatefold LP set with tons and tons of never before seen photographs.

With Albert Ayler, he lived to his early thirties, and his music has aged so well! I mean we realize now how genius he was in the art that he was creating. And he didn’t have the fortune of having a legacy which went decades and decades like many artists do. So, I was really compelled! . . . I got on my hands and knees, literally. And I just cried uncle! And I said, “please, let’s do this, let’s do this!”

On the Chet Baker Trio Live in Paris:

Chet Baker to me was a man that continued to reinvent himself in his prolific career. And in his third act, as we head into the 1980s, he was playing with different instrumentation. He often didn’t want a drummer!

I’m a big Chet fan, and I love later Chet Baker recordings! He had some incredible performances; this man was a brilliant artist. And he could just make magic happen when he wanted to. And these are two very standout performances. The instrumentation of trumpet, bass and piano really allows a lot of openings and space for all the musicians to play in an incredible fashion together. And they sound wonderful!

You know, the great Ashley Kahn, author and writer, had to say – he wrote the liner notes – it is a rare window on a significant moment in Baker’s history. And I couldn’t agree more with that!

Zev Feldman on his love for jazz:

Rick, this music, it takes you on a journey. And so often that’s of self-exploration. I think back to being a teenager when I first heard Mingus and Miles and Coltrane. The road that it’s led me down! I’m also very fortunate, too. Because for the first 14-15 years of my career, I worked in record company distribution, actually doing jazz and classical music. And believe it or not, pop and all sorts of other stuff!

I think back to when my great-uncle, Uncle Harold, spoke to my grandfather one time and said, “why are you so mad about [Zev] buying all those CDs? That sounds like a marvelous thing!” And he said, “he’s not talking certificates of deposit, he’s talking about compact discs!” I would blow my paychecks at the record store. I really was just so into music. Music, it just has healed me; it’s made me feel better at times.

You know what, man? It’s just the road, the path that I’ve traveled. And I feel very grateful, music does something to me. Music does something to you, Rick, and to so many of the people that are listening to this conversation. And I think music is just like one of the healing powers of the universe! All you gotta do is let it in if you’re open to that! And for me, that’s the way it’s been.

I came away from this interview grateful for Zev Feldman — for the road he’s traveled and for the passionate love of music he shares with the record-buying public. Watch for reviews of Resonance’s Record Store Day releases coming soon!

— Rick Krueger

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