OutNow Recordings

Label Spotlight
By Ken Waxman

“Search for the sound you never stop hearing” is the motto of OutNow, a label launched last summer by three young Israel-born musicians, releasing six CDs simultaneously, with more skedded for 2012. The idea is to record innovative music, whether improvised or notated, electric or acoustic, and by younger or older creators.

The trio decided to follow this DIY approach, explains Brooklyn-based saxophonist and co-founder, Yoni Kretzmer, because, despite the multiplicity of labels, “there’s still a lot of music being missed and not reaching potential audiences. We try to create the right frame and aesthetic surrounding for any specific type of musical vision.” Similar to a live performance, he notes, OutNow CDs capture the music of the moment, which once preserved allows the artist to contemplate his or her next statement. “OutNow can also be seen as a kind of encouragement to get out of preconceived notions and conventions … Now,” he adds.

Besides Overlook by Kretzmer’s quartet, the first batch of OutNow CDs include three solo and group efforts by another of the imprint’s co-founders, Tel Aviv-based guitarist Ido Bukelman; plus two where New York drummer Ehran Elisha plays with veterans, either in Israel, with clarinetist Harold Rubin and his father, pianist Haim Elisha on East of Jaffa, or on Watching Cartoons With Eddie, with local trumpeter Roy Campbell. OutNow’s third partner, acoustic guitar player Yair Yona, who lives in Tel Aviv, will release his own CD later this year.

“I visit Israel during most summers and have always been active in music there,” elaborates Elisha. “I was inspired over the past two years by a new crop of players such as Kretzmer and Bukelman, and when they approached me with the idea of releasing music through this new label, I was happy to help. They have a great outlook with an earnest desire to document and promote what they release, be it work by others or work that they’re involved in themselves. The OutNow guys lobbied me hard to put out the [2008-recorded] project with Roy [Campbell], both because they loved the music but also clearly because this duo presented them with their first international artists. I felt it was the right time to do it, and that this label would respect the project's depth and integrity.”

In fact, despite a Tel Aviv base – the label’s launch party last August took place before a full house in that city’s Levontin 7 club – Kretzmer is adamant that OutNow isn’t an Israeli jazz label, but one that will produce music to “dialogue with others around the globe”. Furthermore, while the founders are all in their early 30s, and “feel that it’s more correct to try and put out stuff that comes from people more or less our age,” elaborates the saxophonist, “it’s clear that original personality and creativity aren’t always synonymous with ‘being young’ and that’s the stuff we’re really after.” That was the impetus behind releasing the Elisha projects as well as pressing a forthcoming duo disc by American drummer Gerry Hemingway and pioneering Israeli free jazz saxophonist Albert Beger.

“It’s rare on the planet to have a label whose aim it is to record real new music free from economical decisions,” reflects Berger from Tel Aviv. “And with this label managed by three of my best colleges and friends it was important for me to participate. I hope to record more for OutNow because its ideas fit the music I’m doing these days. Another important reason for me to participate is to support anything involved with experimental music in Israel. I’d like to see a community of musicians here supporting and playing their ‘truth’ with no compromises, similar to what happened with the AACM in the ‘60s in Chicago.”

Historically, it was the Israeli capital’s burgeoning free jazz scene that over the past decade drew the founders together in different bands and eventually led to OutNow’s birth. All three have recorded for other labels, with Bukelman especially involved in several projects. “One of the reasons to create a musician-run label is to have a convenient place to release your own music,” admits Kretzmer. “Ido is always working on several project simultaneously and we thought it would be great to present this whole body of work in one go.”

Division of tasks among the founders is hardly compromised by the US-Israel separation. The three e-mail on a daily basis and have frequent meetings via Skype. As for who does what, Yona does most of the e-mailing, public relations and digital work and deals with on-line commerce; Bukelman takes care of local logistics; and Kretzmer, plus his girlfriend Avital Burg, designs CD covers, flyers and ads. “All three of us take the curating and artistic decisions equally,” explains the saxophonist “We almost always agree and of course having someone in New York is an advantage.”

“The people who started Out Now are learning by doing, so what they lack in experience they make up for in their tremendous enthusiasm, devotion and commitment to the music,” affirms Elisha. “With OutNow it’s your project 100%. These guys are dedicated to championing work that excites and inspires them.”

As with many start-up labels, distribution is a challenge, but as Kretzmer notes “we do all the distribution ourselves, go down to the mail box and send CDs the old fashion way.” Stores in the US and Europe are contacted personally, the label’s Web site is “nicely busy” and downloads are now available on Bandcamp and soon on iTunes. Eventually OutNow would like to produce LPs as well as offer exclusive downloads of its artists’ live shows.

Right now the label’s appeal rests in its decision to allow musicians complete freedom. An artist brings it completed recordings, which may or may not be mixed and mastered, and OutNow pays for logistics, design, shipping and media and may soon begin mixing as well. Any profits go directly to the artist.

In the next little while, besides Yona’s and the Beger/Hemingway CDs, a second OutNow disc by Bukelman’s EFT (Electro Free Trio) with drummer Ofer Bymel and Daniel Davidovsky on electronics is scheduled for release as is a session by Kretzmer’s two-bass quartet featuring both Sean Conly and Reuben Radding plus drummer Mike Pride.

The one thing that’s certain about OutNow’s releases”, adds the saxophonist, “is that they’ll be many more. We’re definitely going to keep them coming at a high speed, one, two or three at a time.”

—For New York City Jazz Record February 2012