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he formation of Sirocco Jazz in 1997 was a thirty-year ambition in the making for founder John Priestley. John's musical influences were nurtured in that melting-pot era of the sixties. From the Beatles (he used to watch them at the Cavern Club in Liverpool) and Rolling Stones, to the blues of Big Bill Broonzy and T Bone Walker. Other artists, such as Nina Simone, also caught the imagination of Priestley, who quickly started to explore the history of the music and the players. After hearing a "Jazz at the Phil" album it was a natural move to jazz record collecting and, by the end of the sixties, he was heavily into Coltrane and Miles Davis.

Fast-forward to 1997. Over the years John had been introduced to a lot of the musicians, usually at the leading London and New York jazz clubs. He decided to call Dave Holland and Robin Eubanks at their New York homes regarding starting a label. Gaining substantial encouragement, a plan was put into action. The studios in Brooklyn were booked. A new label Sirocco Jazz was born.

Robin Eubanks
It was Robin Eubanks' "Wake-up-Call" (SJL 1001) - the very first release, which set the standard for both the creative performance and quality of recording. That album went on to gather universal critical acclaim and was awarded a full five-stars in Down Beat magazine. Robin continued to stay involved with the label, contributing his substantial performing, arranging and producing skills as often as his busy schedule would allow.

As an independent label Sirocco is able to offer a musical platform for some of the world's leading jazz artists, (as well as providing a starting point for those that fall under the heading "talent deserving wider recognition") and to do it within the context of the material they want to have documented. Every leader chooses the musicians they want to record with and, to-date, there have been many instances where this has led to the finished recording being regarded as a landmark example of the artists work. Early examples included Craig Handy's "Reflections in Change" (SJL 1005) featuring Geri Allen, Ralph Peterson's "Back to Stay" with Michael Brecker, (SJL 1006) and Rodney Whitaker's "Yesterday Today and Tomorrow" (SJL 1007) with special guests Wynton Marsalis and Dianne Reeves. The very high standard set by these recordings has continued to be the yardstick by which all Sirocco releases are measured.

More recently Sirocco recordings have enjoyed significant critical approval from audiences and journalists for extending jazz barriers beyond the straight-ahead jazz form. Tim Garland's "Storms/Nocturnes" Trio (SJL 1017), with Joe Locke and Geoffrey Keezer was listed in the top 25 albums of 2002 in Down Beat magazine, and was praised worldwide for the creative use of classical and blues influences employed by these three masters. Similarly, Joe Locke has very successfully blended R&B with Jazz for his highly regarded Storytelling projects "Storytelling" (SJL1012) and "State of Soul" (SJL 1019).

Tim Garland
Tim Garland's "Storms/Nocturnes" recordings are part of a small number of trio projects that are released under the banner Serious Trio Productions. The trio format has always been a vital ingredient in jazz, and the Sirocco trio recordings are produced with the intention of challenging any pre-conceived notion that this format has nothing new to say. Besides the two Tim Garland recordings we have "Triangular 2" with David Kikoski, Gerald Cannon, and Ralph Peterson (SJL 1009), Buster Williams' "Houdini" with Geri Allen and Lenny White (SJL 1014) plus the new Henry Hey Trio recording "Watershed" (SJL 1024). More Serious Trio Productions will follow.

While straight-ahead jazz will continue to be an important part of the ever-expanding Sirocco catalogue, the name Sirocco Music Limited better represents this more eclectic approach to improvised music and also reflects planned moves into other areas of the music business. From the company's UK office we will continue with a policy of seeking-out the very best talent and using the highest quality recording techniques - making more new and exciting music available.

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