LMR You started your own label, you produce the albums, and sometimes you even do the arrangements. How does the arranging fit in with what youre going after in making a record?
PC My background is arranging. I spent a number of years working with Motown and Anne Murray and Ray Charles, and that is one of my first loves. Im very interested in how sounds are made, and thats part of arranging. I never hire an arranger. I do that myself.
LMR In the website bio you describe Alma as a record label that looks for the feel in the song, not just the formula. You contrast that approach with the obsessive demands of the music industry. Could you expand that phrase the feel not the formula?
PC I treat every situation differently. I look for the strength in the artist and in the material. I produce around that. The worst thing you can do is to produce a Peter Cardinali record for Michael Kaeshammer. Thats done quite often, its a drag, because it is the artist that youre recording, and you want to bring out their strong points, bring out their talent.
Thats what it means to go for the feel, not the formula. Im glad that Alma is called a music first label, because that is what we are all about. We dont make decisions based on the dollar. I know what good music is because this is what Ive dedicated my life to. It takes a lot of years to be able to say, Youre wrong. This is fantastic. I know what Im going to do with this
That said, were also savvy in the business world. Were not just throwing everything into the artistic bag. It is a business, and to stay in business you have to have that knowledge too.
So when we decide to take on a project, we put our heads down and do what we think is best rather than following the trends. We have enough brains and foresight and talent that well be setting trends rather than following them.
LMR There is a strong family factor in your business. How does that affect the soul quality in Alma?
PC We are family based here. Both my elder daughters work with me actively. They are totally into what Im doing. This creates a feeling of security at Alma. That family feeling gets extended. Once we sign an artist, they become part of it.
LMR Talk to me about whats going on with Kristy [Cardinali], and what you are about to produce around her talent.
PC Its about making the record around the artists strong points. Kristys strength is the sound of her voice. She has such a pure voice. Were making an intimate record, sparsely instrumented, around her and Robi Botos [on keyboard]. Piano-vocal a couple of tracks, a couple of tracks with piano, vocal and Guido Basso [trumpet and flugelhorn], and with Don Thompson a couple of bass-piano-vocal tracks, and Cadence is coming in to do a track Mel Tormés A Sleeping Bee [Harold Arlen, 1954]. It is going to be an audiophile record. Shes got such a pure voice; all you have to do is hear her sing the melody.
LMR What would you like to say about Jakes [Langley] latest?
PC Movin and Groovin is expanding on his first record for us, Diggin In. That was his first record with Joey DeFrancesco. Joey was coming into town to do a One Take at the Orbit Room and he called and asked me Who is this guy, Jake Langley, what do you think? I said, Jake is great. And Joey knew Terry Clarke. So they did the record in a day.
Now that Jakes been in Joeys band for a couple of years, theyre developing the esp. Movin and Groovin is what the first album tried to be. Since then, Jake has come into his own in this trio setting, with drummer Byron Landham who they play with all the time, so Jakes second record feels really natural and great.
For the third, well see more original material. Weve done two records where its been Ok, just play. They are such strong players that if you let them just play, youll come up with a great record. Now I want to form and shape it into something unique and different without taking away the spontaneity.
LMR Lets close this down with your thoughts about the Junos this weekend.
PC The awards thing is great. Its great to win an award and get recognition from your peers. The Junos are not an audience situation but a panel of music experts. We have three of the five nominees for the Contemporary Jazz Album, and one in Traditional Jazz Album, which is fantastic. We have more nominations than any other independent, and we have a nomination for Jazz Label of the Year. The way we operate is to put our head down and do what we feel is best, and dont let anybody sway that we just go with our own gut feelings. These nominations are proof that our own gut feelings are pretty good.
As far as whether we win one or not really doesnt matter, though theres a little pressure in having three of the five nominations and not win one. All it means to us is theyre putting us in the category of label to be listened to. Thats most important.