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Friday, February 17, 2023

Resonant Artists – A New Force in Improvised Music

By Sammy Stein

Phil Raskin is a musician on a mission - to reach out to others, demonstrating the power of music and creating a positive force.

Raskin’s recent album Satya, named after the second Yoga precept of living in truthfulness, has received wide acclaim and is released on Raskin’s newly founded label, Resonant Artists.

Raskin’s musical connections read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of improvised and other genres. Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, Scott Lee, Skip Hadden, Michael Bocian, are just some of the incredible line-up Raskin has worked alongside. Raskin is also an experienced business consultant using technology to help businesses tackle complex challenges. Combining his musical experience and working knowledge of business made creating a record label a natural development ad ne which fulfils Raskin’s desire to promote positivity.

Resonant artists are described as ‘a digital platform for the release of expansive improvisational music by internationally acclaimed as well as emerging artists. The mission is to offer their exceptional gifts of music so they may continue to resonate with the world, lifting and opening the spirits, hearts, and minds of all who listen.

I decided to ask Raskin about his motivation, what drives him and his future vision for the label.

SS=Sammy Stein

PR= Phil Raskin

SS- Why did you decide to create the label and how did the idea for 'Resonant Artists' come about?

PR- I have worked as a producer for more than 3 decades. In that time, I’ve had the good fortune to work with incredible artists across multiple musical genres from around the globe. When the pandemic hit, I used the time in quarantine to begin to revisit tapes I’ve had in storage for years. I discovered amazing gems including rare captures of live performances from Bill DeArango and Skip Hadden. These performances were so compelling that I felt I had a responsibility to find a way to share them with the world. I discussed this idea with Skip, and he agreed. I was helped along the way by Malcolm Cecil (Grammy award-winning producer of Stevie Wonder) on the restoration of the tapes. My Godson, Jason Berk, an immensely talented musician in his own right, had been issuing his own albums on Band Camp quite successfully. He helped to take me step by step through the process to get things started. The first release, Live At The Willow, featuring Skip, Bill Frisell, Michael Bocian, and Ratzo Harris, created quite a buzz in the music community. Seeing that reaction, I put things into motion to add more releases. Frank Doblekar and I had been working on our own album (with the help of Joe Lovano) and given his endorsement, felt the added motivation to move forward. With each album, we began to build momentum and a small but dedicated following. I’m hoping to build on that from here.

SS- Is there an ethos behind the label?

PR- Resonant Artists is a platform for the release of expansive improvisational music by internationally acclaimed as well as emerging artists. The mission of Resonant Artists is to offer their exceptional gifts of music so they may continue to Resonate with the World; lifting and opening the spirits, hearts and minds of all who listen.

SS- I understand from our recent conversations that this is not so much about creating income because the musicians you work with already have established fan bases, but you support charities. Can you explain a little more about this work?

PR - All the artists on the label to date have achieved varying degrees of success in their careers. That said, music is a tough business, and the name of the game now for established, as well as emerging artists is to gain as much exposure as possible for their art. I want to do everything I can to aid in that effort to the greatest extent possible. The current market for commercial success in music distribution is heavily weighted toward pop culture. Financial reward is due largely to endorsements which can then roll into support of live performances. Jazz and improvisational music can cross over into this financial model only in rare instances. Those musicians that can make their living from their art are relegated to pitching for endorsements, hopefully breaking into the festival market to gain exposure. They are required to travel constantly. Many supplement their earnings teaching in universities and conservatories splitting their off time from performance to travel there.

The start of the war in Ukraine coincided with the founding of the label. These events have been devastating for me as I have family ties to the region. As our artists are not exclusively earning from the releases, when I approached them to contribute to World Central Kitchen in support of their efforts in Ukraine, a charity I have personally supported since its inception, helping the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017, they all enthusiastically agreed. I am honoured to contribute to WCK on their behalf and hope to expand on those efforts in the future.

SS- Do you see the label supporting upcoming and newer musicians?

PR- Nothing makes me happier than to help upcoming and newer musicians gain exposure for their art. I am constantly inspired by the depth and breadth of talent that is out there. I am eternally grateful to Skip Hadden, who over his 30-year-plus career at Berklee, has continually sent me music from former and current students that is amazing. No doubt great things are in store for the future.

SS - Where would you like the label to be in two years or five years' time?

PR - The goal is to grow the catalogue. When I released the Satya record, I sent it to Richard Scheinen who writes for SF Jazz. He gave the album 5 stars and described it as “nourishing”. He thanked me for the sense of calm that he felt after listening. That brings to mind a quote from Terence Blanchard; “Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people.” If one track from any release, achieves that end, with just one person, each day, we’ve achieved success.

SS -If you could sum up your hopes and dreams for the label in a short paragraph, what might this look like?

PR - To be honest, I am quite in awe of the way in which the music on the label is impacting listeners. I can monitor the Band Camp analytics and see that someone, somewhere in the world, is listening to one or more of our artists every day. The numbers are constant too. There is music on the label that has provided inspiration for me in ways that are hard to put into words. When I listen to The Bill DeArango Trio album, it transports me back to my time in Cleveland at the Smiling Dog Saloon. Just like I was hearing it for the first time. Then, I could barely comprehend what I was listening to. I just knew that it was furiously real. So very deep in its authenticity. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have lived that experience, and to have been mentored by the musicians there, who helped shape my fledgling talent in such a way as to allow me to impact others in a positive way. To help to spread positive energy in the universe. The label is a way for me to say thank you. To my forebears, to my contemporaries, and my collaborators. And most importantly to the listeners. May our music resonate with you boldly and help to serve your life for the better.

Have a listen on Bandcamp.