LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s capital is normally associated with the melancholic fado music, but a new Portuguese jazz label is making a name for itself around the world with an adventurous approach to producing modern jazz.
Lisbon’s Clean Feed Records has been winning awards and gathering praise from critics in the jazz world for its vibrant exploration of modern jazz.
Founded in 2001, it has released 140 titles from jazz musicians across the planet, one-third of them from the United States, which is also Clean Feed’s main sales market.
“We like to record new artists and new sounds. I don’t like recording old guys doing the same old thing,” said Pedro Costa, founder and the main owner of Clean Feed, who says recording old standards all over again “just doesn’t make sense.”
Its records have been reviewed by jazz magazines and major newspapers. New York’s All About Jazz publication has rated it one of the five best jazz labels in the world for the last two years running.
“Big labels are not recording new artists. So it’s up to us to do that task of capturing and documenting an era … Jazz is all about discovering new sounds and authenticity,” Costa said.
Three of Clean Feed’s releases – including U.S. jazz pianist/composer Angelica Sanchez’s “Life Between” – were named among the albums of the year by All About Jazz.
The label’s biggest success so far in terms of sales is Portuguese pianist Bernardo Sasseti whose “Nocturno” album sold 7,000 copies, mainly in Portugal but also in Japan. In 2008, Clean Feed sold a total of 11,500 copies. It also organizes jazz concerts and festivals from Lisbon to New York.
Joaquim Paulo, author of the book “Jazz Covers” that won last year’s French Jazz Academy award for the best book about jazz, describes Clean Feed as “renowned and adventurous.”
“It has a huge musical and aesthetic sensitivity, along with the enormous courage to record new musicians,” Paulo told Reuters.
The five-strong Clean Feed team rents recording studios and hires sound engineers in a range of countries. The design of disk covers and the packaging is done in the Clean Feed office in downtown Lisbon.
Inside, a vast collection of jazz CDs are on display in a space that hosts the office, a shop and storage rooms.
The clanging and ringing of Lisbon’s trademark old yellow trams outside and the busy life of the Sodre docks on the Tagus river provide additional inspiration to the team.
Costa says the Internet and globalization have helped his small company to succeed internationally despite its distance from jazz hot spots such as New York and he likes it that way.
He said the distance allows them to take a wider view.
“To be in New York would be like being in a cave,” he said. “From Lisbon we can see the world.”