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The Gig: Kickstart My Art

Nate Chinen on the phenomenon of fan-funded recordings

Nate Chinen
Dr. Lonnie Smith, Queens, NY 3-12

Not long ago, Wayne Escoffery-trusted saxophonist with the Mingus Big Band, the Tom Harrell Quintet and Ben Riley’s Monk Legacy Septet-had an idea for a new album. He’d already released five under his name, and a couple with his wife, the singer Carolyn Leonhart. But this one would be different: a concept album inspired by his early years in London, and the hardships of his single mother, and the circumstances around their emigration to the States. In essence, a portrait of the artist as a young man.

It would also be his first album of entirely original music, which he’d conceived for a blend of acoustic and electric instruments. But when he presented the idea to the record label he was affiliated with at the time, he found no traction there. “They felt that the music wasn’t accessible or radio friendly,” he recalled recently. So Escoffery turned to Kickstarter, the popular crowd-funding website, and took his pitch public. The decision literally paid off. He exceeded his $10,000 goal, and went on to make his album, The Only Son of One, which was released on Sunnyside this spring. (To the likely chagrin of his previous label, it has met with some success on jazz radio.)

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