Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cuneiform Records' End of Year/2013 Review

Happy 2014!!

It's December 31, 2013, the year's summit, and this cold, brisk, splendidly clear day offers an ideal vantage point for looking over the past year.

2013 was an exciting year for Cuneiform:  a staggering number of new releases, 17 rock and jazz titles that challenged genres, defied expectations – and ended up on many Best of Year lists worldwide.  They included two staggeringly special archival releases:  Robert Wyatt's 68, featuring recordings made by Wyatt that year while staying in CA with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and in NYC; and tapes from the sax trio S.O.S.(John Surman, Mike Ospborne & Alan Skidmore)  in the 1970s.  A double-CD release by Mats/Morgan featured remixes of the Swedes earliest recordings – two albums made around the time when that they met and worked with Frank Zappa–augmented with other material. But the bulk of our 2013 releases were new recordings, incendiary that exploded the boundaries of rock (Richard Pinhas, Guapo, Miriodor, Chrome Hoof, Zevious) and of jazz (Blue Cranes, Pixel, The Claudia Quintet, Tatvamasi, Curtis Hasselbring, The Kandinsky Effectm Rob Mazurek Octet, Sao Paulo Underground. Dylan Ryan/Sand), winning audiences in all walks.

A number of Cuneiform artists or associates received well-deserved recognition this year.  Wadada Leo Smith was named one of 3 official Finalists for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Ten Freedom Summers, his monumental jazz/classical/creative music tribute to the Civil Rights Movement, which Cuneiform released in 2012.  2013's Composer of the Year (DownBeat) and Musician of the Year (Jazz Journalists Association), Smith performed selections from Ten Freedom Summers in cities worldwide, and performed it in Washington, DC and London, UK in its entirety, with jazz and classical ensembles.  In 2013, Cuneiform released We Are All Small Pixels, its 2nd album by Norwegian jazz/pop group Pixel, while "Call Me", a song from Pixel's first Cuneiform album, began drawing a surprising amount of mainstream attention.  Brandon Boyd (Incubus) featured "Call Me" on his iHeartRadio show (Clear Channel!?! definitely a first-ever Cuneiform appearance ;-), and the song's official video, directed by Ola Martin Fjeld, won the 2013 2013 UK Music Video Award for Best Dance Video–Budget. The growing interest in "Call Me" is leading us to wonder whether Pixel leader Ellen Andrea Wang is the new Nora Jones/jazz-pop crossover artist; exciting indeed!  Also in 2013, Cuneiform released not one but two different Rob Mazurek projects – Sao Paulo Underground and the Rob Mazurek Octet – and in August, The Wire featured Mazurek on its cover.  2013 marked the release of a new Claudia Quintet album, September,  featuring artwork by KarlssonWilker, who design all of Claudia Quintet's album art. But this year it was extra special, as the firm's partner, Hjalti Karlsson, had won Scandinavia's highly prestigious art award, the 2013 Torsten and Wanja Söderberg prize. Our artists and associates were drawing new attention worldwide.

Answering to a changing world, Cuneiform expanded beyond its its traditional boundaries in 2013.  In July, Cuneiform and concert presenters Sonic Circuits co-presented a concert by DC experimental duo Janel & Anthony at United Therapeutics' BioWall Plaza in Silver Spring.  That same month, Cuneiform set up an official label display at the 2013 Capital AudioFest, promoting its artists to audiophile audiences. In September, Cuneiform's intern team volunteered at the 2013 Sonic Circuits Festival, held at DC's Atlas Performing Arts, and in October, Cuneiform assisted when Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet and Pacifica Red Choral string group presented Ten Freedom Summers over three concerts at the Atlas. But we did not limit our 2013 explorations to concert collaborations and festival label displays.  In Fall 2013, we released a new media: Miriodor's Cobra Fakir, our first vinyl album featuring limited-edition artwork.  And we also expanded into new territory on the internet. Cuneiform launched an official YouTube channel, featuring music videos, live performances by our artists, and selected tracks from all of Cuneiform's releases

What new realms will Cuneiform explore in 2014?  2014 is Cuneiform's 30th Anniversary.  The music world has changed a lot over the decades, and we've evolved to enable us to continue releasing music that remains timeless.  Expect to see new music from us  in the coming year that defies genre borders, and surprises and delights, by established jazz and rock artists and fast rising stars, artists like Thumbscrew (Mary Halvorson/Michael Formanek/Tomas Fujiwara), Raoul Bjorkenheim/Ecstasy, Richard Pinhas, Rob Mazurek, Present/Roger Trigaux, The Microscopic Septet, Led Bib, Mats/Morgan Band and many more.  Expect to see our label and artists on the web in new garb – a new website to better spotlight our new global profile.  We look forward to celebrating 2014 with you. Because YOU are the reasons that we are still here after 30 years.  Together, let's celebrate and share a new year.

Best regards