Jellowstone Records, like its national park semi-namesake, is a collection of bubbling, spouting, funky phenomena powered by an underlying reservoir of hot, rising creativity.
The label's founders are making big opening moves. Trombonist and percussionist Reggie Pace of No BS Brass and Bon Iver and drummer and keyboardist Devonne Harris of D.J. Harrison and Butcher Brown have signed with independent label Ropeadope Records, which is home to popular groups Snarky Puppy and veteran jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood.
They have several releases ready to go, but the first major Jellowstone exposure will be as sidemen for New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton on his July 22 release, "Numbers" (on Payton's BMF Records).
Payton's connection was his — and Butcher Brown's — drummer, Corey Fonville. The young, fast-rising Fonville, born in Norfolk, has a lot of longstanding Richmond connections and recently moved here from California to take part in the burgeoning local musical scene.
The first Jellowstone project is a 10-track sampler CD ("Booster Pack Volume 1"), which showcases the kaleidoscopic recombination possible with the label's interconnected family. There's Pace Cadets (Pace, Harris, saxophonist and rapper Marcus Tenney, vocalist Lydia Ooghe), Arizal (Pace, Harris, guitarist Scott Burton), Butcher Brown (Harris, Fonville, bassist Andrew Randazzo, guitarist Keith Askey) and Two Tone Quartet (Harris and Tenney, doubled by multi-tracking). There's also the Big Payback's James Brown channeling Kelli Strawbridge's band Kings, as well as Tim Turner's headlong sax burner "Goin' Petersburg." The music blurs distinctions between jazz, hip-hop, funk and fusion.
The all-local artist approach is a bit different from the established artist and local band Spacebomb Studios business model. But like Spacebomb, which was named after Matthew E. White's attic, Jellowstone gets its name from Harris's home studio in the near West End, which is named for the national park by way of Yogi Bear.
In addition to playing keys with Butcher Brown and driving to weekly gigs with trumpeter John D'earth, Harris is an incredibly prolific recorder, whose densely detailed beats, released under the name D.J. Harrison, have a strong following in the instrumental hip-hop community. Harris' nonstop activity drew others. "People started bringing projects here," Harris says. "Then I had ideas, then Reggie [Pace] had ideas. …"
The equally energetic Pace sees a strong work ethic as an essential part of the Jellowstone brand. "We're the blue-collar side of artistry, more like a startup than a traditional label," Pace says. "We're experimental, but not over-intellectual; ground-level, not aloof."
They hope to get a new D.J. Harrison release out by the end of July, a Pace Cadets album in August and Butcher Brown in September. There is a host of other projects, including a new No BS Brass album with songs already recorded or in the works.
"We're filling a void," Pace says. "Even the rap music on the radio now is just pop music. I believe people like more stuff than record company executives think."
With some early successes and youthful momentum combined with the national and international distribution muscle of Ropeadope Records, Pace is in a prime position to find out if his theory is correct. S