The Cory Weeds Quintet brings jazz of the past to life
It must be an odd feeling: just days before you’re about to launch your new record label, the Internet explodes with news that your business partner has been headhunted by a legend. That’s what’s happened to Cory Weeds this month, but according to the unflaggingly energetic saxophonist and jazz entrepreneur, it’s all good news.
The back story is that in 2016 Weeds struck up a Facebook friendship with Los Angeles record producer Zev Feldman, then riding high on a series of exemplary archival recordings he’d released through the Resonance imprint. This led to a five-night run of tribute concerts at Frankie’s Jazz Club, which Weeds books, with Feldman talking about his work, and local musicians interpreting the music of the historic greats.
“It was a huge success,” Weeds recalls in a telephone interview from his Burnaby home, and naturally the two vinyl junkies began discussing other projects, leading to the founding of Reel to Real Records, which this week issues its first two projects: Swingin’ in Seattle, culled from 1966 and ’67 club dates by the great alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, and A Soulful Sunday, which features singer Etta Jones with pianist Cedar Walton and his trio, recorded in 1972.
“Zev very casually mentioned this Cannonball Adderley tape to me, and that’s the one that ended up coming out,” Weeds explains. “And in the midst of that we came across the Etta Jones tape, which I just couldn’t put down.”
Although Feldman and Weeds’s roles within Reel to Real aren’t clearly defined, with the first two discs Feldman essentially sourced the recordings, assembled the comprehensive liner notes, and touted the label to the jazz press. Weeds handled the legal side, took care of mastering and pressing the discs, and organized distribution through his preexisting Cellar Live label.
And then, on January 7, the news came down that Feldman had just been handed one of the most important archival positions in jazz: consulting producer for historical and archival recordings for New York City’s legendary Blue Note record company.
Naturally, this is going to put pressure on Feldman’s time, but he and Weeds will continue to work together. “It can only be good for the label,” Weeds says, and although he’s reluctant to go into detail about what comes next, he mentions that Seattle jazz DJ Jim Wilke, the source of the Adderley tape, has many other equally compelling recordings in his archive, as does his local counterpart, Gary Barclay. More immediately, Weeds is getting ready to celebrate Reel to Real’s debut with three album-release tribute concerts: two with his own quintet, featuring Swingin’ in Seattle drummer Roy McCurdy, and one with the Sharon Minemoto Trio, with Dawn Pemberton taking on the Etta Jones role.
“I don’t think we’re going to do the arrangements exactly like they are on the record,” the saxophonist says. “It’s more just to create some excitement around the release. And in the case of Roy, I mean, what a bonus that Roy is still alive and sounding incredible! I mean, that’s just really cool. So it’s more just to play homage—and it’ll be fun.”
The Cory Weeds Quintet, featuring Roy McCurdy, plays Frankie’s Jazz Club on Friday and Saturday (January 18 and 19). The Sharon Minemoto Trio, with Dawn Pemberton, plays the same venue next Thursday (January 24).