I am very pleased to share a link and the text to a recent interview/label feature with the New York City Jazz Record, May 2019 edition!
We are SO grateful for the support of the team at the New York City Jazz Record, it was thrilling to have them do a feature on pfMENTUM. In particular, I would like to mention the critic/author Robert Bush that wrote the article. Robert is a tireless champion of the music, for which we are incredibly thankful.
You can can find all their goodness at http://www.nycjazzrecord.com/
I’ve pasted the article below….
pfMENTUM, by Robert Bush, New York City Jazz Record, May 2019
A cursory glance at the fulsome website of trumpet/ electronics provocateur Jeff Kaiser’s pfMENTUM record label reveals the following mission statement: “Dedicated to creative music—and the musicians who make it.”
“The idea for the label came around 1995 or ‘96 with my buddy Keith McMullen,” remembers Kaiser. “I was running a concert series in Ventura, CA and we wanted to create a newsletter to go with it. Somehow we came up with the name pfMENTUM. The newsletter morphed into a record label in January of 1999, when Vinny Golia and I released a duo album [Ganz Andere], which reminds me that we just had our 20-year anniversary and I need to do something to celebrate that.”
So what is the business model and how has the label been able to survive for 20 years despite the collapse of the recording industry as we know it? “My lawyer once referred to it as a ‘non-business’ business model,” cracked Kaiser. “The goal is to get music out there that wouldn’t get out any other way, so it’s all about creating a sustainable practice that gives us a platform to survive. Artists tend to find us through word-of-mouth. In the beginning, it was mostly friends—people who were close associates. Now that we’ve gained a reputation, we’ve put out records by people all over the world. They find out about us and approach us.”
The label adheres to a fairly Spartan economic aesthetic. “We’re able to stay afloat because we keep the costs down,” says Kaiser. “The artist covers the cost of the recording and we have a large database that they get access to, so they can send their music to critics and radio stations. I kind of view it as a curated collective. We don’t go for every project that gets proposed, but when we do, it becomes a collective because everyone has responsibilities in getting the music released. On my end, it’s a labor of love. I volunteer a lot of support in terms of the internet and shepherding most projects through the manufacturing process. Because the financial costs are shared, it becomes a sustainable venture. The burden is not on us to make money on music that doesn’t have a large commercial audience for it. But there is a devoted audience that wants to hear this music.”
Kaiser believes another secret to his label’s success is adaptability, rather than relying on fixed numbers. “It varies from year to year as to how many CDs we put out. Over the last 20 years, we’ve put out 130 releases on pfMENTUM and if you count our other label, Angry Vegan, it’s 150 albums. Some years we’ll do seven or eight records, other times it could be ten. We don’t have specific target numbers.”
One recent pfMENTUM release that really stands out is Resonant Geographies, a stunning collection from saxophonist Jason Robinson’s Janus Ensemble, an 11-piece band of Marty Ehrlich, J.D. Parran and Oscar Noriega (reeds), Michael Dessen (trombone), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Marcus Rojas (tuba), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Drew Gress (bass) and George Schuller and Ches Smith (drums). “Jason is incredible as a performer, composer and improviser and that project with the large ensemble of allstar musicians turned out really great. Jason worked really closely with [graphic designer] Ted Killian on the cover. That was a really wonderful project in every sense.”
Who would be some of pfMENTUM’s most representative artists? “Number one would be [trombonist] Michael Vlatkovich,” Kaiser says. “Number two would be Vinny Golia, Vinny and I go way back, we’ve been collaborating since the mid ‘90s and we met ten years before that. Number three would be [flutist] Emily Hay and number four would be [bassist] Steuart Liebig. Those are four that immediately came to mind, but I usually recommend that people go to our website to the “Listen” page, where there’s a playlist with at least one selection of everything that we’ve ever done and just scroll through it. There’s some remarkable music we’ve put out.”
Kaiser built his label with one obvious role model in mind. “I think Vinny’s Nine Winds label was the most influential independent company on the West Coast. We’ve done a number of co-releases over the years that work because we have this streamlined process that makes it very easy for artists to put stuff through and I think he appreciates that.”
Why start a secondary label? “Angry Vegan came about originally because I wanted to put stuff out that wouldn’t necessarily fit in the pfMENTUM concept of improvised music. Stuff like electronica and more beatoriented music. That way I could keep the distinct identity of pfMENTUM and still work with people I really admire, like Trevor Henthorn who has new synthesizer music coming out. Angry Vegan is slow, but constant.”
How many people make up the pfMENTUM organization? “In addition to Ted Killian, Louis Lopez is the third member of our current team. He’s a fantastic trumpeter and composer. He’s a key player in our sustainability model. If I do it all myself, I couldn’t keep up but with Louis and Ted and before that there was Maxwell Gualtieri, it becomes manageable.”
What about Kaiser’s own work as a musician, including a long-rumored solo trumpet album? “Well, my professorship out here [Kaiser teaches at the University of Central Missouri] takes up a lot of my time and being on the job market for three years before that meant that my own personal recordings had to take a back seat. Now that I’ve settled into this position I hope to release my solo trumpet recording in the fall of this year.
“Another thing I get asked about a lot is the Ockodektet (huge improvising orchestra). We recorded at UC-SD for my 50th birthday celebration. Wayne Peet has sent me the mixes. So hopefully soon there will be a bunch of recordings under my name coming out— including a metal/glitch recording I made under the persona of Corpseboy.”
For more information, visit pfmentum.com