It was a year ago. Four groups from Chicago made a date at New Morning, two evenings, each with their own identity, all united under the same banner, International Anthem, a label still little known here. At the head of the bridge, the combo of the drummer (and son of drummer) Makaya McCraven, a pretty baby born in Paris and grown up across the Atlantic. The young man arrived with a double album in his luggage, Universal Beings, announced as the sensation of winter 2018. "This record has made us pass a course, smiles Scott McNiece, one of the founders of the label, with David Allen. Radio stations in London played it a lot, European programmers solicited us. Fortunately, because until then, despite a first success of esteem with the disc of Jeff Parker (multi-instrumentalist member of Tortoise editor's note), we survived. And then we decided to bet everything on Makaya, our twenty-second exit! " So it's gone, the album broke everything. And this bestseller has in the process to highlight the patient work of this label, forty projects in five years, a sum of talents as different as detonating.
"The platform we have built is now spotted. Our outings are the focus of attention from both the public and the critics. But it takes time … " Long sigh for the thirties, which connects in early September registration sessions. No time to breathe, you have to go to the other end of town for a concert by Ben Lamar Gay, another affiliate of the label. And return by what serves as office at the pharmacy, a simple mezzanine in a vast trendy street arts and contemporary design, in the South Side of Chicago. "A block from here, we finally have a warehouse for our records that we rent, at a good price, the same owner: it is the first supporter of our business." The label has even built a recording studio … "But be careful, we are not yet a multinational!"
Contrary to what the name might suggest, McNiece emerged from under his cap – "The first time I got the idea, it was for a kind of ambient recorded with a friend in my cellar …" -, International Anthem is not what is called a vast "profitable" network. Not yet time to emerge from wages, Scott like David, his main partner, have jobs "food": they realize playlists for restaurants and bars … That's how it all began, in November 2012, in a neighborhood bar where the trumpeter Rob Mazurek had a residence for three weeks. "We decided to record it, with the idea of producing a series of lives, and Rob followed us. Given his resume, it was a big boost! remember McNiece who, in another life, was a punk drummer. I was busy preparing touring and everything else … skills that I wanted to put at the service of all those creative musicians who did not have the audience they deserved. "
The shot after, in early 2013, he plugs Makaya for a jazz series. Twenty-eight concerts spread over a year in this same place, something like forty-eight hours of music, which after many edits will end in January 2015 to the good named In the Moment. "At first, there could be five people in the room. We had to hang on, but the musicians liked my job, how I talked about them. Just like the aesthetics of posters by designer Craig Hansen ", continues the one who considers himself above all a curator, catalyst of energies. And his artisanal methods, based on the DIY reagent, will help federate a younger audience, as his live series extend over the city. "Some jazz lovers found this strange atmosphere: we talked, the music was too loud, the bar rustled. They wanted silence. No way !" On the other hand, young whites are able to carve out a reputation among the heirs of the Great Black Music.
Network of influences
This is not the least challenge in this case. Because on the side of the musicians, many will follow this idea as collaborative as creative, which corresponds perfectly to the independence of spirit of the city. "This is a double mutualisation: they have benefited from our presence as much as we have benefited from their label. Many things existed without them, but they knew how to diffuse them. Like my job, which could have just stayed a good performance. They made it more than that, " sums up Damon Locks, an artist who mixes techniques (collages, photos and drawings …) as well as visual artist and musician. He has signed several covers of the label, just as he invited other members of the label on his project this summer.
The story of International Anthem is thus written, at the pleasure of the cooperative meetings, as a series of snapshots that, end to end, deliver a photograph of the aesthetic diversity that agitates Chicago (read opposite). All this gallery of characters with different backgrounds ultimately form an extended family, converging towards an irreducible horizon to a definition, an organic process between acoustics and electronics. Even the furious outbursts against the police state of Moor Mother in the Irreversible Entanglements collective and the cinematic soundtrack of the young arranger Will Miller at the head of the Resavoir collective.
Jazz, not jazz, that's not the question anymore. The musical flow extends according to a network of connected influences, from the most classical formats to the most contemporary formulas. It is not uncommon for some to invite one another. Like the trumpeter Ben Lamar Gay, whose versatile creativity is found on many projects, starting his own, seven books on Bandcamp. International Anthem has extracted a vinyl compilation. "Waiting for the next, 100% original!", promises McNiece. LP, CD, digital, again the support is no longer the issue. "Some music is a document that is important to broadcast as quickly as possible. Others need to be published with more investment and time. " The best example is Angel Bat-Dawid, whose K7 released earlier this year is now in LP / CD following its success. The clarinetist measures what she owes to this label. "No one else would have taken the risk of releasing an album from a stranger who recorded it on her mobile phone. In music, it's all about frequencies and vibrations! "
Rens. : intlanthem.bandcamp.com
Jacques Denis Special Envoy to Chicago Photos Camille McOuat
Junius Paul Ism
Angel Bat-Dawid The Oracle
Makaya McCraven In The Moment (Deluxe Edition)
Jeff Parker & The New Breed Suite for Max Brown (released January 24).
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