Producers (Disc One): Pat Metheny; Steve Swallow; Akira Yada; Al MacDowell and Jack O'Neil; Pete Levin; Jonathan F.P. Rose and Jamaaladeen Tacuma; Harvie Swartz and David Baker; John Blake and Jonathan F.P. Rose; Jonatha F.P. Rose (tracks 10 & 11); Ray Anderson & Mark Helias.
Producers (Disc Two): Jonathan F.P. Rose (tracks 1, 2, 6-8); Jonathan F.P. Rose and Anthony Davis; Max Wilcox; Bobby Previte.
Compilation producer: Jonathan F.P. Rose.
Whenever a label celebrates an anniversary with a compilation, there will inevitably be a certain amount of nitpicking. If the label's A&R department is on the ball, it will concentrate on the more essential recordings, but even if the label's choices are smart ones, some people are bound to wonder why their personal favorites (which may or may not be essential) were omitted. In 1990, Gramavision celebrated its tenth anniversary with this two-CD compilation, which spans 1981-1989. And, of course, there was the inevitable nitpicking -- some people lamented the absence of their favorite John Scofield or Ray Anderson recording. But when all is said and done, Gramavision 10th Anniversary Sampler paints an attractive and well-rounded picture of the company's contributions to jazz. In the '80s, Gramavision prided itself on being risk-taking, and for the most part, the artists on this double CD are, in fact, risk-taking and individualistic. This isn't a collection of young, Armani suit-clad retro-boppers playing overdone Tin Pan Alley warhorses the same old way and trying to sound exactly like their '40s and '50s idols. On the whole, the artists have the guts to be themselves, and that is true whether they are providing fusion (John Scofield), post-bop (Harvie Swartz, Tony Dagradi, James Newton), or avant-garde jazz (Ray Anderson, John Carter). The term avant-garde jazz can mean a variety of things. It can mean totally atonal free jazz, or it can mean an inside/outside approach and a sense of melody -- and the avant-garde selections on this double CD fall into the latter category. Trombonist Anderson and clarinetist Carter, for example, are adventurous and left of center, but they play melodies and aren't as far to the left as someone like the blistering free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle. All things considered, this release offers a rewarding overview of Gramavision's first ten years. ~ Alex Henderson