Patois Records: The Little Label That Could
What do a radio promoter in Livingston, Texas, an entertainment lawyer in Berkeley, California, a publicist in Lincoln, Massachusetts, a sales rep who is a grandfather, and an operations & marketing director balancing her laptop in one hand and young child in the other have in common? They are all on the team of San Francisco-based Patois Records strategizing a campaign around the upcoming CD release and recent Grammy nomination of label head and Latin Jazz trombonist Wayne Wallace.
Wallace, who started Patois in 2006 after releasing two CD's early in the decade on another jazz indie, Spirit Nectar Records, is celebrating his own label's tenth release with his recording "To Hear From There." Says Wallace about the impetus to start the label: "Knowing that the big record companies saw no profit in jazz and Latin music, I decided to start my own record label. I figured that DIY was the only viable alternative to get the music that moves me out to the general public. I wanted a vehicle for releasing recordings that sparked my artistic vision, musically and aesthetically. I have always liked music that speaks to being multilingual as well as multicultural. As small as the marketplace for this kind of music has been I felt that this was the best way to go."
Patois Records is one of the poster children of the "new music industry" made up of independent labels of all genres competing and sometimes winning in a David and Goliath arena against the dwindling major labels. Fueled by egalitarian cooperation more than organizational charts, passion more than profits, and music more than market share, "satellite labels" coordinate teams of independent industry professionals virtually tied together by music and a common message, seeking audiences for independent artists like Wallace who has been able to articulate a strong message through his music.
The nomination of Wallace's Latin Jazz Quintet's 2009 release "¡Bien Bien!" for a Grammy in the Best Latin Jazz Album category and the inclusion of the recording on the prestigious Downbeat Magazine Best Recordings of 2010 list came as welcome surprises to Patois. The honors fit right into the spirit of spontaneity and improvisation that permeate the label's DNA and are taken in stride by the entire team. "It's been a wonderful journey of ups and downs but with no regrets," says Wallace. "We had several new projects in the hopper already for Patois in 2011, so-just like playing jazz music-these honors simply added new elements for us to work with in our journey forward as an ensemble. We are also extending our involvement and activities to doing work in community outreach, arts education, and promoting cultural understanding with music as the vehicle."
Surrounding himself with high quality people and living in the moment seems to be the formula that Wallace learned from his long career as a sideman and session player for the likes of Pete Escovedo, Sammy Davis Jr., and Lena Horne that he's carried into the Patois experience. "The organization is committed to record, perform and codify the music and promote improvisation as an integral approach to creating music and living life. Patois Records goal is to provide an outlet to artists who might be otherwise overlooked, to promote understanding in the ability to communicate, and make music." Artists such as jazz vocalist Kristina, the VW Brothers, a brother team of California recording session veterans turned bandleaders transplanted from Amsterdam, and vocal duo Amikaeyla and Trelawny Rose spread the "live for the moment" message of the label as they promote their recordings through performances, media, and how they live their lives.
One of the ongoing goals of the Patois team is to educate those who come in contact with the music. Players and executives together bring teaching experience to the label and beyond. Wallace: "Patois Records is dedicated to support the growth and perpetuation of improvisational music that pushes the pre-conceived parameters of jazz and it's related/unrelated forms. Patois Records seeks to help educators teach jazz improvisation, and make it easy for listeners to appreciate the music by helping them increase their knowledge, skills and repertoire." By taking the spirit of improvisation into the board room and the public with new products and services such as an upcoming book on how to improvise music and incorporate it into life written by Wallace, books and lectures promoting entertainment industry literacy by Patois' legal counsel, and workshops given by artists on the label, the label's message gets spread virally to those who embrace it. "Our goal is to have everyone with whom we do business feel as they have received an experience where the music is as important as the business" says Wallace.
With the challenges of the economy as a backdrop, the business philosophy of the "Little Label That Could" just keeps on chugging alongside the major labels going after the same goals. If Patois Records is any indicator, Grammy nominations and major trade publication reviews are no longer reserved exclusively for multinational corporations using widespread marketing, but open to those who embrace a multinational approach to the music seeking a loyal audience. New releases by Patois include "To Hear From There" featuring Wayne Wallace and "To Eva, With Love" by duo Amikaeyla and Trelawny Rose.
Visit Patois Records at www.patoisrecords.com. All Patois Records label executives and artists are available for interviews.
Sheryl Lynn Thomas
sheryllynn at patoisrecords dot com www.patoisrecords.com
More Information: http://www.patoisrecords.com