2021 has seen a return to normal of sorts for Pi Recordings. It was also our 20th anniversary, and while the events that we had in the works to celebrate never came to fruition because of the pandemic, the occasion was still an opportunity for us to reflect on our two-decade long journey. Started by Seth Rosner with no grand plan other than to release two volumes of music by Henry Threadgill, we have somehow become one of the more highly-regarded record labels in-and-around jazz despite never releasing more than six albums in any year. For us, it’s all about finding original, uncompromising music full of risk-taking and rigorous thinking and execution. We have also always taken inspiration from our North Star Muhal Richard Abrams and his words at the inaugural meeting of the AACM: “First of all, number one, there’s original music, only.” But really what the label represents is a distillation of our ever-evolving taste in music, which has helped keep the catalogue from getting stagnant. In a sense, the label is one very long journey that we have had the privilege to take with all of you.
We wish everyone health and safety in these difficult and turbulent times and look forward to the day that we can all come together once again in the presence of live music.
Seth and Yulun
It’s 2021 and it’s our 20th anniversary. We’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about the past two decades, our catalog, the artists we’ve worked with and how the music has evolved. Lots of thoughts about our future, what we want to do and what we hope to see happen.
One idea we keep coming back to is the incredible amount of fluidity and cross fertilization that we now see between so many different musical communities. There are more and more unexpected collaborations and blurring of stylistic boundaries. And the results have been refreshing and full of enormous promise. Making a concerted effort to foster new connections and new partnerships feels right to us, and that means actively reaching outside of our normal musical circle of family and friends.
Lots of conversations with the artists on our roster have taken place. But the idea of remixing the catalog and finding ways to reimagine the last twenty years with fresh eyes, quickly gained a lot of traction. So, we decided to seek out fresh and uncompromising voices, just outside of our regular orbit, who share a kind of Pi Recordings “ethos” for individualism and experimentation. Jlin and Georgia Anne Muldrow were the first two artists we sought to collaborate with. It should go without saying that our respect and admiration for their work runs deep.
We ended up sharing the Pi catalog with both Jlin and Georgia Anne and they both immediately found artists whose work resonated with their own and who they wanted to remix. Jlin focused on Steve Lehman’s “Cognition,” from his 2016 Selebeyone recording. The pairing of Lehman’s propulsive rhythms and Jlin’s one-of-a-kind approach to beat science was a natural. Steve’s writing often bears witness to a certain electronic sheen, and those evocations are more than fully realized through Jlin’s ears — one of electronic music’s current innovators.
For her part, Georgia Anne is no stranger to Henry Threadgill’s music; going so far as to dedicate a song to him on one of her earliest recordings (“Thread’s First Stitches”). Her father (noted jazz guitarist, Ronald Muldrow) was a friend of Henry’s in Chicago. As Georgia put it “please understand, Mr. Threadgill’s music was my first and only goal from the moment we started the remix conversation.” Goal realized. And the crossroads connecting the unclassifiable Muldrow and the ever iconoclastic Threadgill on Georgia Anne’s reimagining of “Clear and Distinct” is something we are very proud to be a part of.
Our sincere thanks go out to Jlin and Georgia Anne. Their enthusiasm and complete embrace of this project has been inspiring and joyful to witness. These two remixes are the first in a series of remixes we will drop this year, all conceived and executed by women of color. We look forward to future collaborations with Moor Mother, Val Inc. and others.