Cellar Live is a label founded in 2001 as a media outgrowth of the Cellar Restaurant and Jazz Club in Vancouver, British Columbia. The club and label are owned by Cory Weeds, who purchased the club in 2000 as a venue for live jazz, including the music of his band and others in the area, as well as Canadian and international talent. Immediately upon founding the club he determined that he also wanted to record the music to preserve the excitment of the various bands, to disseminate their music, and to promote the club. In association with Maximum Jazz, which provided a production and distribution deal, Weeds completed the first CD in September 2001, a compilation of many of the best performances to that date. Since then, Cellar Live has produced nearly 50 wonderful live performance CDs by local, national and international talents, with a particular emphasis upon Canadian players including himself.
Some of the outstanding productions to date that I want to draw readers' attention to, are as follows:
Cory Weeds,Just Like That (2011 ) A great quartet featuring Weeds on alto sax, with three talented players largely unknown outside the Northwest -- Tilden Webb on piano and Fender Rhodes, JodiProznick on bass, and Jesse Cahill on drums. This is straight ahead jazz in the old "Blue Note" style with both originals and standards played with verve and style.
Cory Weeds,Up a Step (2012) This is another quartet but with a different set up -- Weeds is joined by the always teriffic Mike LeDonne on organ, Oliver Gannon on guitar, and Jesse Cahill on drums, in a set honoring the great Hank Mobley. This is a rollicking good time with features like "A Baptist Beat," from Roll Call; "Up a Step" from No Room for Squares; and "Straight No Filter," from Mobley's LP of the same name.
One For All,Invades Vancouver (2011) One for All has been putting out CDs over the past decade or so that bring together the talents of several leaders in one group who clearly enjoy one another's music. The players are Jim Rotondi on trumpet, Eric Alexander on tenor sax, Steve Davis on trombone, David Hazeltine on piano, John Webber on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums. Having played together for years, the group obviously is tightly knit and exceedingly tuneful at all times, but what makes this a special one is the electric atmosphere of playing live.
Chris Davis,Baile Bonita (2010 ) Here's one from a Canadian trumpet player, Chris Davis, that you should hear, a solid hard bop outing featuring his trumpet and a non-piano trio made up of Ian Henrickson-Smith on alto sax, Adam Thomas on bass, and Jesse Cahill on drums. This is one of my favorites from the label and one that flies under the radar in the U.S. based on name recognition. The music cooks, the pairing of Davis and Smith in and around each other is fantastic, and the rhythm support keeps everything moving ahead. And Hendrickson-Smith, if you don't know him, is a fine sax playerwith a strong discograhpy as leader, including one in 2011 on the Smalls Live label that you should hear.
Finally, the first Cellar Live CD I bought was by the Tilden Webb Trio, "Cellar Groove." (2005) Why? Because this is once of those read the ingredients on the label CDs -- Tilden Webb on piano, Jodi Proznick on bass, and Jesse Cahill on drums.........are joined by David "Fathead" Newman with his rich and resonant tenor sax. It's a minor masterpice of uptempo jazz and balladry, and while Newman is the highlight the trio itself is terrific (and note that htey are on the Cory Weeds CD above as well). The music cooks, simmers, and sometimes reaches a full boil as the four players clearly excite the live audience.
That's only five of almost 50 CDs from Cellar Live, and I have yet to hit a clinker with any of the others I have. There are more outings by Weeds and Davis, but also some outstanding music by a very well-know and award winning Canadian jazz trumpeter Brad Turner to hear, a recent outing by the veteran Lewis Nash, lovely recordings by the October Trio, and many more.
The music is all worth hearing and is available from the Cellar Live website as CDs or MP3.