While studying jazz at the University of Northern Colorado, saxophonist Jared Atol and drummer Nick Spreigl, who also plays with Air Dubai, saw a lot students spending a good deal of time practicing and composing. Some would put still more time into recording albums, but then not doing anything with the work. So they started their jazz label (R)evolve to help nurture artists. Atol says the goal is "to get the music to make a bigger wave than just their family buying a few copies."
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On Thursday, December 18 they're releasing Homegrown, a six-song compilation of younger local jazz artists, including Tom Amend, Aaron Summerfield, Daryl Gott, Daniel Moran, Matt Burchard and Annie Booth. Spreigl and Atol had them each record an original tune. "They're all vastly different," Atol says, "It's incredible how different all of their writing is."
Atol says the label is all about original music. "We want to release music and art that we're passionate about, not just standards," he says.
"Stuff that raises the bar," Spreigl adds, "and pushes the envelope as far as what jazz can be defined as. So all the stuff on the compilation album is very modern forward-thinking jazz. Stuff that's going to do something, hopefully. Push the art forward. Us pushing boundaries in a way that we deliver the music and then the artists also pushing boundaries in the way that they record the music and write the music. Those two things totally go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. I feel like we're encouraging that. That's like a whole thing that we're trying to do is cultivate that sort of music and cultivate new artists and inspire people to raise the bar and do something different."
Spreigl says they're trying to tap into artist's creativity and hope that something catches on. "And even if it doesn't we're not trying to be millionaires," he adds. "You're doing it for the creativity. Because you think you can do something different. You're doing because you feel you have to. You have a unique voice and you need to use it. You have to say something in some way. And hopefully somebody can relate to that."
There's no way of predicting it will catch on, Atol adds, and there's no mathematical equation on whether it's good or not, especially in the society we live in today.
"People just crave weird shit," Atols says. "Like they just want the weirder the better, which is also another opportunity. Now more than ever people just want your personality. They want to see who you are. The true you instead of this mask or whatever that a record company is trying to create for you in this pop world. People are over that and they want real and they want raw. And again, you look at that as opportunity, not a bad thing but an opportunity. How do you navigate into that world and take advantage of that?"
Atol says they want to get back to what art really means, not just recreating stuff that's already been done before. "Fifty years ago, the development of bebop," he adds. "That was not a well-accepted art form at all but it was pushing the boundaries. Those guys were doing for themselves. People were walking out of their concerts. It wasn't about the money. It was about the art. It was about, 'This is next step.'"
It's clear from the talent on Homegrown and from Ben Parrish's Song of the Forest, the first official (R)evolve release, which is due early next year, Atol and Spreigl are on the right path both with recruiting players and making the recordings sound quite good. In fact, Atol and Spreigl were recording jazz recitals and then got asked to record albums before decided to start the label.
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"What happened was we recorded one," Atol says, "and it was such a great album that we decided that we didn't want him to just release into this void and make the same mistake that a lot of jazz makes in releasing - 'Oh, there's a CD and then there's no impact at all.'"
Part of making an impact is realizing that the music industry has changed a lot since the '80s, even though Atol says a lot of labels still operate like it was the '80s.
"They refuse to adapt and change," Atol says. "That's mostly what this is to us, is just an investigation on how do we make this happen in this world that we exist in now. How music works now. You've got to understand with Spotify and all this music that is downloaded by the masses, like how do you operate inside of that instead of just, 'Oh, this is a problem. Shoot, we should fix it?" it's like, 'No, how do we go with the flow?' Because that's how things are going."