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The Launch of a New Jazz Label: A Conversation with Legendary Carl Griffin

What’s it like to launch a new jazz recording label?
A conversation with
Legendary three-time Grammy award winning record producer Carl Griffin
By
Doug Hall

In the Brave New World of digital music, streaming radio stations and instant access, Carl Griffin has some tried and true lessons in a music recording industry in which he has signed and produced new talent for years. A resume that includes 15 years as Senior VP of A&R Records and the promotion & marketing of GRP Records, a standard-setting quality output of contemporary jazz music and artists who remain household names today (Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, David Sanborn, Arturo Sandoval, Joe Sample, The Crusaders, The Rippingtons and more). Enter ALFi Records, where Mr. Griffin is now Senior VP, teamed with founder Albare (Albert Dadon) virtuoso jazz guitarist, songwriter, producer and music promoter from Australia. Together they’ve launched their new jazz label, like “taking a plunge in a pool where you know the water is cool” Albare reflects, “Eventually you just jump in.”

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Duke Lives On At Ellington

‘Duke Ellington didn’t consider himself a jazz musician.

He said he was a musician who played jazz. And what a musician: pianist, bandleader, composer of more than 1,000 songs including standards like “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Satin Doll” and “Sophisticated Lady.”

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Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born 116 years ago today in Washington, D.C. And it may just be that Ellington lives on most profoundly, every day, at a public arts high school that bears his name. The goal of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts is to give a free arts education to very talented students in the D.C. area — young people who might never have the benefit of private lessons. The school celebrated its own 40th birthday last weekend.

We have a saying: If you have to be an artist, this is the place to be,” says Davey Yarborough, director of jazz studies at Ellington for 30 years.

Most of the students at Ellington are African-American. They had to pass rigorous auditions and interviews to get in — to study not just jazz, but also classical music, dance, drama and visual arts, along with a full academic program. The graduation rate is 99 percent, and 98 percent go to college, some on full scholarships.

Senior Angela Whittaker is attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston this year.

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“I knew if I went to this school, I’ll come out and be something incredible … and help me shape myself into something I’ve always wanted to be,” Whittaker says. “And I didn’t think I could achieve that. Duke Ellington gave me hope that I actually could.”

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Lay Low with Lou Doillon

I knew I was going to like Lou Doillon’s LP, ‘Lay Low’ from the moment her fingers delicately set the mood from the sound of the keys in opening track, ‘Left Behind.’

It is apparent that we have been left behind at Fresh Independence because we were not familiar with the success of Parisian Lou’s previous LP, ‘Places’ selling over three-hundred thousand copies worldwide.

LAY LOW AVAILABLE NOW

I don’t dare to compare, but upon first thought, it was a refreshing version of Adele meets Regina Spektor and Sia.

The ambience of the mind provokes a dim room overlooking the city lights with a glass of wine as the record player cues your new favourite album of repetitive measure.

Lou Dillon is a free flowing taste of sultry jazz and sweet afterthoughts.

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The Reality of Amy

This week in 2007 Amy Winehouse was No. 1 with her enormous album ‘Back to Black’ which brings such bittersweet memories of this girl who was stolen from the world. Reflecting back on her documentary it makes you want to kick that shit in the head.

Took in the Amy Winehouse documentary this weekend and was blown away by the depth of her voice and it rattles you to your bones to know that it comes from somewhere ultimately divine. So many beautiful pictures of her in living colour adorning the costume she wore but yet unsettling to see the physical contradiction as she changed from a healthy full of life teenager, to a scrawny bulimic body with breasts paid for with her Hidden Treasures from Back to Black.

It saddens the soul to watch a life crumble at the hands of instant gratification and a circle of people who did not care enough to say ‘No, I will not sit and watch you kill yourself.’  

Amy was born full of life and ready to challenge the world. She possessed a vibrant personality that drew the people around her in and made them feel special in her presence, herself becoming as a sacrificial lamb when her addictive personality began to swim in a sea of money. There also lurked those feeding off of her and unfortunately in those shallow murky waters one is not able to see clearly. She loved Blake Fielder and he loved her money and it’s a disturbing piece of the puzzle in Amy’s life.

Usually the right thing and the hardest thing are the same thing and Amy’s father had the capability to shut this business down and protect his daughter allowing her a safe harbour to get clean, healthy and strong. In the end she may have still chosen her outcome, but at least she would of had a fighting chance to win this battle.

A pivotal moment for thought occurred during a clear spell, when Amy won her grammy and confided to her friend ‘this is just no fun without the drugs.’ How sad to be experiencing the biggest moments of your life thus far, yet unable to feel anything. What does this do to a body and soul and why does anyone ever choose to go down that road when it steals so much from you rendering you null and void of all the beautiful things going on around you.

At times it makes you frustrated to think that while everyone else is checking out the rest of us are left to see, feel and live the realities of life. We are not any different than any one else, except for the fact that we deal with it. 

 Life can punch you pretty damn hard and it has the ability to bend us but we must not give it the power to break us. The truth is you can not get around what you’ve got to go through. No one said life was easy but anything worth keeping is worth working for. Keep your eyes clear and let the body be filled with light and keep going until you find your way home.

 

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