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Survival Records Returns with New Jazz Releases

Founded in 1973 by Rashied Ali, the label had closed in 2009

Rashied Ali
Rashied Ali (photo: Enid Farber)

Survival Records, a record label that jazz drummer Rashied Ali founded in 1973 and operated until his death in 2009, is set to restart in January with two releases, including a never-before-heard 1967 live recording of Ali.

Ali maintained an archive of recordings, including a vast trove of unreleased documents of his own performances. These have been meticulously catalogued and remastered in the decade since Ali’s death by a team that includes Ali’s widow Patricia, Grammy-nominated veteran mastering engineer Joe Lizzi, drummer George Schuller, and historical researcher Ben Young.

The previously unreleased First Time Out: Live at Slugs, available in a two-LP set or as a digital download, features Ali leading a quintet at the titular club in New York’s East Village on an unknown date in the spring of 1967. Performing these two sets at a time when Ali was a full-time member of John Coltrane’s quartet, the drummer’s assemblage of trumpeter Dewey Johnson, tenor saxophonist Ramon Morris, pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Reggie Johnson may have been a one-off performance; it occurred with no known advertisement or announcement, and was discovered only via the two reels of tape the team found in Ali’s archive.

First Time Out appears in tandem with Duo Exchange, the 1973 album that was the inaugural release for Survival Records. The first release under Ali’s name, it featured the drummer in a duo with tenor saxophonist and flutist Frank Lowe, recorded at Marzette Watts’ studio in Cooper Square. Survival was originally intended as a joint venture for both Ali and Lowe, but Duo Exchange was ultimately Lowe’s only title (and indeed his only appearance) on the label.

The original Survival Records issued 10 titles by Ali over its 36-year existence (as well as What Would It Be Without You, a 1975 album by vocalist Joe Lee Wilson that featured Ali on congas). The revived Survival Records plans to proceed with future releases, promising “further treasures in coming years.”