Montreal’s Justin Time Records is Canada’s biggest jazz record label. Happily, it’s also a remarkably diverse one, having recorded Hank Jones, David Murray,
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Secret City Records,
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The two independent imprints happen to be run by the same family. Jim West, now 55,
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As a fan of artists on both labels, I was hoping there would be a philosophical connection between father and son businesses and suspecting that jazz might have something to do with it. So on a recent trip to Montreal, I sat down with both Jim West and Justin West to talk to them about their enterprises, and tease out any possible connections between indie rock and jazz. Part one is with father Jim.
Patrick Jarenwattananon: Tell me about Justin Time. Why did you start the label,
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Jim West: We started it in Montreal after seeing an act by Oliver Jones and his trio. He was playing at Biddle’s Club Charlie Biddle on bass and it was an evening of just incredible entertainment. Being in the [record] business already,
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PJ: Did you consider yourself a jazz fan at that time? A regular concert goer or anything?
JW: No. Mind you, I did see Pat Metheny in 1972,
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PJ: What else were you listening to at that time?
JW: In the ’70s? Jimi Hendrix . I listened to everything. Lots of different sounds. I mean, not metal,
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PJ: So why has this become a jazz label?
JW: Well, as I was saying, we started the label because of Oliver Jones, right? And it sold very well,
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PJ: Seems like you’ve definitely gotten more into jazz as time has gone on.
JW: I should say that I’ve always liked jazz, no question. And I did have a really good friend who sort of turned me on to jazz, basically, and introduced me to many, many great jazz players, from Wes Montgomery to Pat Metheny. He loved jazz a lot. He used to send me names: "Go out and buy this record!" "Go get [John] Scofield’s record!" "Get this record! Get that one!" You know? And I would get them, and I’d listen to them. And I always had jazz music on in the house [growing up]; in my parents’ house they’d have some orchestra on Harry James’ orchestra or something playing somewhere. So that was always around.
PJ: The way the label has evolved over time, it’s been very diverse in terms of what kind of jazz gets recorded everything from Billy Bang and David Murray to the first record of Diana Krall. Is there a philosophy behind the eclecticism?
Shop For Authentic Air Jordan 3 Wolf Grey, not at all. As long as it’s interesting, and as long as everyone in the office seems to like it, and it’s fun, and it fits a budget. I mean, David Murray was really interesting because he’s out there. And Billy Bang too you named the two perfect examples of people that . can be so esoteric. Jackson, "O Little Town Of Bethelhem" he plays that melodic and beautiful, just georgeous playing.
PJ: Do you find yourself concentrating on Canadian artists in particular?
JW: Hmm. That’s not an easy question to answer,
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PJ: Or is there anything special about the Canadian scene or aesthetic?
JW: Oh, absolutely. In the Canadian scene, there’s a grant system, and a funding system, that allows you to record Canadian artists, and facilitates that recording, and promotion of that recording. It helps significantly. That’s not the only reason that we would record an artist . and not every artist can participate in the grants. But bottom line: there is a unique system in the country that allows you to take an artist from A to B, and helps in the recording, promotion, marketing, and touring, showcasing, and has access to funds that allow to pay a certain percentage of what it costs you. So in other words, your gamble is a lot less than if you were to court somebody else. The festivals I mean, the festivals will take a Canadian act that’s going through, that they know they don’t have to pay huge dollars for they’ll take that and run it across the country. So there are a lot of things that facilitate, and make sense recording a Canadian act.
Now, it’s got to be good, and it’s got to be right. I mean, David Murray’s not Canadian; Billy Bang’s not Canadian. I can go through a list of artists [on Justin Time] that aren’t. But we do record our fair share.
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PJ: One more question: for people who are more traditionally jazz fans, why would they listen to Secret City’s records?
JW: Well, if you have myopia, that’s a dangerous thing. You’ve got to expand your horizons. And you have to listen to everything out there. So if you don’t like country music,
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And if you like something, it’s like a good painting. If you go into a museum, you can tell right away if you like what you see, you know. You go into the Louvre,
Moreover, you see Renoir and stuff, you love it or, normally, most people do, love these beautiful paintings. It’s like a recording. If you’ve made a masterpiece like that, that’s well done and well produced, then you can tell. It doesn’t matter, the style. It’s a piece of art that’s created; that’s great, and you should enjoy it.