Ask founder/producer Piero Pata and VP/engineer Josh Connolly about the guiding concept behind Le Coq Records—their Las Vegas-based music label, established in January 2021—and the pair spit out terms like “honest jazz” and “clarity.” But the best way to understand the label, and the wealth of albums and singles featuring musicians like John Patitucci, Chris Potter, Rick Margitza, Bill Cunliffe, Terell Stafford, Alex Acuña, and Vinnie Colaiuta that have flooded the marketplace since its inception, may come down to two words from Connolly: “Why not?”
“Why not” certainly explains better than just about anything else how an Italian-Australian pianist turned ballet dancer turned flamenco music producer (Pata) and a top pop engineer for names such as Lady Gaga, Santana, and Justin Bieber (Connolly) hooked up in the first place, with flamenco-dancer-cum-jazz-vocalist (and Pata’s life partner) Andy James as Le Coq’s firestarter.
“Piero and Andy came to Las Vegas as connoisseurs of jazz at the same time she was transitioning into a singing career,” Connolly recalls of his first meeting with the couple in 2019. “Andy got her feet wet, sitting in with local musicians at the same time I was engineering at Audio Mix House. Piero was in on co-producing those sessions [for what eventually became James’ 2021 Le Coq album Tu Amor], we clicked, and we haven’t stopped.”
In their previous lives, Pata and James had been steeped in the flamenco world of Spain, working with players like Paco de Lucía—which gave them both big-league musical connections and an artistic ideal to strive for when they emigrated to the U.S. “A bond was created with Paco and these musicians, one where Andy used to sit in and sing with them whenever there was a chance,” Pata notes. “This label started because Andy was changing gears—she sang before she ever danced—and needed an avenue to get her new music out. Because we would get so many great players working with her once we got to the States, we wanted to extend the courtesy to them and their music to be recorded and released, music they might not have an opportunity to do elsewhere. We love putting people together who might not have come together to begin with. That started with me and Andy.”
Le Coq’s first release, February 2021’s The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1, featured an eye-popping array of such hookups; besides the artists mentioned above, the album also includes appearances by trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, trombonist Michael Dease, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, keyboardist John Beasley, bassist Chris Colangelo, and drummers Joe LaBarbera and Marvin “Smitty” Smith. “How long has it been since Colaiuta, Beasley, and Patitucci have played together?” Connolly notes. “Almost 10 years as a trio? Andy and Piero made that happen.”
“We love putting people together who might not have come together to begin with.” — Piero Pata
Unlike labels such as ECM or Blue Note that have their own distinctive vibes, Le Coq sees itself as open and free, as apt to capture tense postbop or swing as modern originals or jazz versions of classic soul. For its roster so far, though, it’s been emphasizing veteran jazz cats who can read and play complex charts. “I don’t want to say that we’re jazz snobs, but we have an incredibly high level of what we want our music to be,” Connolly says.
Pata estimates that since Le Coq’s start, he and Connolly have recorded nearly 250 songs. The label’s upcoming projects include a trio album with pianist Jon Cowherd, Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade; leader albums from Stafford, Beasley, and Acuña; and, at the top of 2023, a Christian McBride Big Band disc also co-starring Blade.
“In pop and hip-hop, it’s a game of consistency, of constantly staying in people’s faces,” Connolly says. “Starting as we did, during COVID, that’s been our mindset, not just with albums, but with singles [Patitucci’s recent “Letter for Paul,” featuring Potter and Cowherd, is a jammy example]. Jazz as an idiom so far isn’t conducive to this formula. We’d like to change that. As a new label, doing two or three albums a year isn’t going to cut it. We’re looking to slam the door open. Le Coq will not be ignored.”