DownBeat March 2021

INDIE LIFE ARBORS RECORDS Arbors Records Puts Art First F or more than 30 years, the independent label Arbors Records has put artistic con- cerns ahead of budgetary ones. Based in

Cunningham—who plays clarinet, saxophone and flute, and who frequently tours in trom- bonistWycliffe Gordon’s band—has a long rela- tionshipwithArbors. In addition to leader dates under his own name (such as his acclaimed 2019 disc, Play Lerner & Loewe ), Cunningham releases retro-leaning, dance-worthy titles billed to his “Professor” persona. The LockdownBlues featuresCunningham’s original compositions, including “Six Feet Is Too Far FromYou.” Because the albumwas cre- ated during the pandemic, all eight musicians involved recorded their parts in their individ- ual homes. The process required careful com- munication between Cunningham, his band- mates and audio engineer Bill Moss. The result is a seamless gem of an album. “I really had to conceptualize how it was going to sound before I passed the charts out,” Cunningham said via Zoom from Barcelona. “I had to have it conceptualized as much as possi- ble, in terms of the arrangement and the ener- gy. Because if the drummer is laying down a track, he doesn’t know what’s happening unless

Clearwater, Florida, Arbors is run by Rachel Domber, who cofounded the label with her hus- band, Mat, who passed away in 2012. Among the artists associated with the label are pianists Dick Hyman, John O’Leary and Rossano Sportiello, bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott, clarinetist Ken Peplowski and reedist Scott Robinson. “Aftermy husband died, I decided that I was going to continue focusing on music,” Domber said over the phone. “I’m funneling a lot of money into the record business because I just feel like I have to do that. I want to pay themusi- cians fairly. In fact, I’mpaying them[more] right now because of the virus. Instead of donating to a cancer fund or Make-A-Wish and all that, I’m donating my money to the musicians.” Among the label’s recent releases is a pan- demic-themed album, The Lockdown Blues , by Professor Cunningham & His Old School. Vocalist/instrumentalist Adrian

Bandleader Adrian Cunningham has a strong relationship with the Florida-based label Arbors Records.

I know what’s happening. So I would tell him, ‘OK, on these four bars, the horns are going to come in.’” Another gifted musician on the label’s ros- ter is Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo, whose new album, Antarctica , features solo acoustic guitar tunes, as well as quartet tracks. “I’mreally happy and proud to be anArbors Records artist,” Figueiredo wrote via email from Brazil. “I love working with Rachel. She gives great support, besides being a wonderful person. I want to continuemy work with Rachel for many, many years.”  —Bobby Reed


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