Each month, we are focusing on a record label founded by an active digger. Stuart Baker is the man behind one of the most exciting reissue labels : Soul Jazz Records. Since 1992, he has contributed to release numerous reissues of rare LPs and high-end compilations in very diverse styles such as reggae, funk, samba soul, punk, spiritual jazz, folk…
When did you start digging records?
I started buying records when I was around 10 years old.
What Lps did you buy at first? Do you still listen to them?
Hmmm… The Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, Rolling Stones ‘Get Stoned’, Ian Dury ‘New Boots And Panties’.
Do you have a particular style or favorite period? And why?
No. Growing up my taste in music coincided with the fashions of the day – disco, punk, ska.
What was your first issue?
The first album we released was called ‘Fresh Out’ by Eddie Russ.
Why have you chosen this name : Soul Jazz ?
The label came out of a shop. We put a sign outside the shop on white board in letra set that said SOUL and JAZZ underneath it. Seemed to make sense at the time!
Does that mean it was actually your main music styles ?
Well it started off that like this but changed soon after into encompassing many styles of music.
Dealin by Richard Davis
When and why did you create another sub-division, called Universal Sound ?
I think Universal Sound started a few years later, as a way of releasing more specialist releases, or albums that followed on from our releases on Soul Jazz.
What could be your editorial/esthetic line?
Not completely sure I can express it in words, although it all makes sense in my head.
You published numerous selections on New Orleans… Do you believe this Crescent City is in the center of all your concerns? Tradition and creation, urban and rural, body and soul, does it combine all that you like in music?
Hmmm, I would not say it is at the centre of my concerns, but I would say it is a reflection of my interests. My interests are in “hot” musical places, points in time and people. Some of these are New Orleans in the 1960s, Jamaica in the 1960s/70s, Chicago in the 1980s, New York in the 1960, 70s, 80s etc.
I’ve Never Considered by Inell Young
You published many books focused on LP art-work (black jazz, disco…)… Does a LP artwork already tell many about the music played inside the record?
Yes I would say. A good sleeve is a reflection of the values of the music inside and makes you want to hear it.
You also publish books more on the societal aspects. In what the social dimension and the political question are connected to the musical creation?
Music is a cultural expression of a place in a period of time. I am interested in any form of cultural expression, often but not always of a rebellious nature.
Do you think that the buyers of vinyl are the buyers of books ?
Not sure. Some yes, some no.
How do you decide on the choice of reissues?
Normally what I am interested in at that point of time. I’m actually not that interested in reissuing albums. I like to explore areas and put together records as ideas. We often reissue albums later that follow on from a broader concept album, to fulfill an interest that this may have created.
Your were well known for your 100 % Dynamite serie and for your Spiritual jazz reissues/compilations, and still appreciated for that, but now – and for a long time in fact – you do reissues in other styles, like new wave, post punk, or disco. Is it difficult to go out your (supposed) speciality?
I think we would have closed many years ago if we had not consciously moved into different areas of music. For my own sanity and passion I need to look at new areas of music, and this is what I hope I can share on our albums.
Get Up and Get It by Jackie Mitoo
What is the best deal/business : to make reissue or to produce new records?
Hmmm, well I like both new music and music from different periods in time. Either way in my head I approach them as if they are new.
Is it two different jobs?
Have you received many negative answers on some of the LPs you were trying to reissue?
Christmas Time In Nassau
There is more and more reissues of old LPs. Do you think that the LP reissue market could ever reach saturation point? and why ?
Well as I say my main interest is in exploring musical themes rather than reissuing albums. I agree there is a lot of these now!
What are your next releases?
Punk 45 – Punk from Cleveland, Ohio 1974-80. Punk 45 – Punk from Akron, Ohio 1976-80. ‘Studio One Jump-Up: Jamaican Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Boogie and Early Ska’, Popul Vuh – ‘Kailash’ (unreleased film and album), Lloyd McNeill – ‘Tanner Suite’, Sounds of the Universe (Hieroglyphic Being, Andres, Kaseem Mosse). That’s all I can think of.
What is the LP you dream of reissuing?
‘Nu Yorica! Experiments in Latin Music 1970-77’. It was 20 years ago we first released it!
Idle Hands by Harlem River Drive