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Label Watch: Basin Street

It’s quite a sight to see an owner of a record label strolling with one of those old-fashioned sandwich boards hanging from his shoulders advertising his label’s artists. But for New Orleans-based Basin Street Records owner Mark Samuels, who first experimented with this unique approach to advertising at the 1998 French Quarter Festival, it’s just part of the business. It’s a ploy he’s returned to many times since.

Basin Street Records is only about a year-and-a-half old, having released its first CD, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins’ The Barbecue Swingers Live, in February 1998. It has nonetheless caused quite a stir, particularly in New Orleans. Besides releasing the much-loved Ruffins’ first live disc, in April just in time for the 1998 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the label debuted a band that had only been together several months. The group was Los Hombres Calientes featuring trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, percussionist Bill Summers (of Headhunters fame), and drummer Jason Marsalis. The self-titled album was to become the number one selling disc out at the Fest’s Fair Grounds and among the top five sellers at all the major New Orleans record outlets.

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