Newly discovered gems from bassist Charles Mingus, pianist Les McCann, saxophonists Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, Eddie Harris and many other artists will see the light of day on CDs released by Label M, a new company led by Joel Dorn.
Dorn, 58, a musical archivist, recently had huge successes with his 32 compilations including Jazz for When You're Alone, Jazz for the Open Road, and other "Jazz For" discs, many of which have been on the Billboard top 25 jazz chart for more than a year. Jazz for When You're Alone features saxophonist Houston Person's tune "Everything Happens to Me."
At Label M, Dorn plans to release live music from the '60s, '70s and '80s.
"This music is from private collections from artists, presenters, you name it, that no one has ever heard, or even knew existed," Dorn said.
The first release, scheduled for Sept. 26, will be Magic Moments, a live set from Harris and McCann recorded in the mid-'80s that comes from McCann's private collection.
Label M is funded by Paradise Music and Entertainment and will operate as part of PDSE Records Inc., which also includes Indie 5000, Mesa Records, Bluemoon Records, Kinetic Records, Push Records, Trippin' 'N' Rhythm and Jazzica.
'Mining For Diamonds'
A majority of Label M's first live releases will be culled from the Left Bank Jazz Society's Sunday concerts in Baltimore. Dorn bought the rights to more than 350 concerts. This means he has the right to get clearance from the artists or their estates to put out the music on CD.
"We have been putting on concerts in Baltimore since 1964," Left Bank member John Fowler said. "Duke, Basie, you name it. Other than Miles, I can't think of anyone we didn't have.
"But we basically had lost our audience over the years and had to shut down for a year because we ran out of money," Fowler added. "So working out a deal with Joel will allow us to put concerts on, and ultimately he will have more material to work with."
Dorn said he was delighted by some of the music he's discovered for Label M.
"It's like mining for diamonds. Right now, we're working on a live Sonny Stitt thing and a Stan Getz concert that are just unbelievable."
Not every tape in the collections is worthy of release. "These tapes come from DJs that ran live shows from their studios, from club owners that flipped a cassette in the deck every night and from the players themselves. So there's a lot of sh--. But when you find a tape that has both nice sound to it and a great performance, it brings back memories."
Compilations, album reissues and new-artist signings are in the works at the new label.
"We will do a Paul Desmond sort of overview thing, a set of alto great Hank Crawford playing ballads, and some other stuff," Dorn explained.
While a staff producer at Atlantic Records in the '60s and '70s, Dorn worked with artists ranging from Bette Midler to Leon Redbone to the Neville Brothers. He won Record of the Year Grammy Awards in 1972 and 1973 for soul singer Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," respectively.
He also worked with multireed master Rahsaan Roland Kirk during the last decade of Kirk's life. While at 32 Jazz, Dorn was responsible for the release of a number of Kirk's records, including the four-CD set Aces Back to Back and Dog Years in the Fourth Ring, two discs of previously unissued live Kirk packaged with the 18-instrument solo album Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata.
Next year, Label M plans to release the Rahsaan Roland Kirk box set, which will feature the complete Atlantic Records dates as well as a number of unreleased tracks and outtakes. Also set for reissue on Label M are vocalist Joe Williams' A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry and The Complete Reprise Recordings by Morgana King, another singer.
Dorn is certainly a virtuoso when it comes to repackaging music. For his "Jazz For" series, he culled music from the Muse catalog.
"Honestly, I had no idea those would take off like they did," he said of the immensely popular series.
But at 32 Jazz, he exhausted his source material, he explained. "I pretty much did what I could with the material available. There was nothing left for me to do."
Dorn said he was not averse to signing new acts to Label M: "I have only produced three or four new records in a long while, which should tell you something about the talent pool out there. I did the first two [percussionist] Leon Parker dates (both on Columbia), and a recent one by a singer, Jane Monheit (on N-Coded Music). If someone should catch my ear, we'll move on it."
For Dorn, Label M is a family affair. When not helping him pore over tapes of potential releases, his son, Adam Dorn, makes electronic music under the name Mocean Worker for Rykodisc/Palm Pictures.
And as for the label's name?
"It is an anagram of my three favorite Jews," Dorn says: "Meyer Lansky, Albert Einstein and Lenny Bruce. This whole thing is all about having fun doing what you do."