At seven years of age, Jazzgroove has been around almost long enough to be considered ‘the old guard’, yet when it began Jazzgroove (and Jazzgroove records) wanted to be an alternative to the establishment, started for and by musicians who needed new ways to perform and release their music.

The first CD released by Jazzgroove was a compilation as is their most recent release Jazzgroove 2. Evan Mannell kindly agreed to answer most of our questions. We were interested in hearing about the differences between the two, about what’s changed for Jazzgroove and what, if anything remains the same. Greg Levine reviewed the launch gig and we were relieved to hear that Mr Cheese made an appearance and that Jazzgroove is still not taking itself terribly seriously – except when it comes to music, that is.

Jazz Australia: Why is Jazzgroove releasing a compilation? And if you’ll excuse a tongue-in-cheek question, why isn’t there any holly on the front cover, or a Christmas tree (given the late December launch date)?

Evan Mannell: The poster has some green writing on it and “Radical Price” is written in red…that’s pretty festive don’t you think? Apart from that, I grew up in the Sutherland Shire and considering the irresponsible front page headlines being bandied about by the trash pages in Sydney, we’re trying to distance ourselves from the whole Christmas thing.

Minimal cover, maximum music.

And speaking of music I guess I should answer your actual question. Jazzgroove Records have released an enormous number of albums considering its relatively young age. The new compilation Jazzgroove 2 is a cross section of stuff from the last year-and-a-bit’s worth of releases. It’s a good vehicle for us to showcase our stable of brilliant musicians, and for those musicians to get their tracks into the hands of many and varied people, perhaps who might not hear it otherwise. We’re gonna sell it real cheap so people have no reason not to check out what’s really happening in the modern jazz scene in Sydney.

JA: The first CD produced on the Jazzgroove label was a compilation. And now seven years later, we have another one. How is decision to release this one different to (or the same as) the decisions behind the release of the first?

EM: The first one launched the ship. Our production values and collective knowledge and resources have improved dramatically since the early days. They are both showcases, and there’s no reason there won’t be another one in 15 albums time, which in Jazzgroove records timeline means not long at all! There is also a bit of a fundraising aspect to this release with artists on the label donating their tracks to try and bring some always-needed funds back into the organisation.

JA: How were the tracks for this CD chosen?

EM: The tracks were chosen by Gerard Masters, the old head of JGR (see Miriam Zolin’s 2003 interview with Gerard on www.allaboutjazz.com )and then bashed into shape a bit with the help of some artists who had slightly different takes in mind. As I said before it really is a cross-section of what’s happening. From the world music fused side of things there’s a band like Mosaic, led by singer and Mbira player Judy Campbell, who have a real Brazilian flavour fused into their thing and then up the other end there’s the more straight ahead modern jazz of Mark Harris’ quartet featuring brilliant side-men James Muller and Matt McMahon. Mature beyond his years, a young Jasper Leak documented his material and came up with It’s Cold Out, a very cool mixture of hard swinging originals and Afro-beat inspired funk, and he has a track featured. Well know jazz singer Lily Dior holds the other place for vocals on the compilation with a tune written by piano player Gerard Masters, whose trio has a track on there as well from his second album Island Life. The title track of that album was written by Cameron Undy, a guy long at the forefront of modern jazz in this country who has just released two albums on the same day; one by his trio Numerology, and the other, the brilliant 20th Century Dog from which a track is featured. Then there’s Haunting Melodies from Jerusalem, the album released by pianist/composer Leonie Cohen, the country rock blended sound of Jazzgroove favourites Sidecar, all round good times from Jeremy Borthwicks rambunctious Éxposed Bone, Ben Savage’s supercharged V8 ensemble with two of everything, and finally a track from guitarist Jess Green’s debut release, an album of music inspired by her recent travels to west Africa and beyond.

If there’s not something on there you like, then you don’t have ears!

Jazzgroove 2 was launched on Thursday December 17. You might like to read Greg Levine’s review of the gig.

Jazzgroove gigs happen every Tuesday night with double bill at Excelsior Hotel, cnr Foveaux & Bellevue Sts, Surry Hills (NSW)
8pm-12pm – $8 Entry
$7 Members of Jazz Action Society, SIMA, Sydney Jazz Club, UNSW Jazz Society
$5 Jazzgroove Members

Hash Varsani is the owner of The Jazz Directory, a network of sites related to jazz, travel and everything else he loves. He also runs a selection of jazz related sites including Jazz Club Jury, a jazz club and festival review site. Check out his Google+ Profile, to see what else he's up to...probably setting up another website from one of his many passions.