Sandy Brown Jazz

[A computer might ask you to allow the music to play on this page]

 

TEA BREAK

The monthly Tea Break is a series of short, fun items in What's New Magazine
that also gives jazz musicians an opportunity to update us with what they are doing.

 

Martin Hummel (Ubuntu Management Group)

August 2018

 

Martin Hummel

 

Over the past year there has been a noticeable increase in the growing number of important album releases from a company called 'Ubuntu Music'. Some of these are debut releases from talented jazz musicians whose work deserves to be heard by a wider audience; they include people such as guitarist Nick Costley-White, trumpeter Mark Kavuma and pianist Pete Lee. Details of their albums are in our Recent Releases section, and we have featured Thinky Pain from Nick's album and Church from Mark's recording in our Jazz As Art feature.

I was intrigued to find out where this record label had come from and discovered that it is part of Ubuntu Management Group, founded originally by Martin Hummel who is one of the organisation's directors. They have a number of strings to their bow; they specialise in communications/brand/business consulting (Ubuntu Ideas), artist management (Ubuntu Talent) and now recorded music (Ubuntu Music).

So how had the recorded music strand come about? I managed to catch Martin Hummel for a Tea Break in his busy schedule:

 

 

Hi Martin, tea or coffee?

Hi, Ian. It’s a pleasure to join you. Coffee, thank you. 

 

Milk and sugar?

Black. Strong. One sweetener, please.

 

Some background music? What do you fancy?


How about some mellow Bill Evans? Or Kenny Barron with Charlie Haden? It will set the tone for our chat.

 

There is a nice track of Kenny and Charlie playing Spring Is Here that migh suit - I'll put it on in a minute. Ubuntu Music seems to have been making its mark over the past year – how long have you been releasing albums now and how did you become involved in the market?

I spent nearly 40 years working in marketing, advertising and communications all over the world. However, my true love has always been music and, specifically, jazz. It took me a while before I could make this love the main part of my professional life.

For nearly two decades, I was responsible for the Pepsi-Cola International business. Back in the 1980s, we wrote the book on music marketing, bringing an FMCG, sorry, 'Fast Moving Consumer Goods', brand like Pepsi together with some of the biggest names in music. We started our associations with Michael Jackson and went on from there to work with Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Robert Palmer, Madonna, Robbie Williams, Ricky Martin, Kylie Minogue, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Pink and, yes, even The Spice Girls! The experience I gained was in understanding that artists are living, breathing, growing 'brands' who require the same disciplined approach in the development and management of their careers, just like traditional FMCG brands. Except that artists are human, and they have a point of view that must be taken into consideration! Beyoncé is a well-defined brand. Will.i.am is the same. Jay-Z refers to himself as a brand. And that’s because they get it. It’s funny that those who have struggled to Andrew McCormackdevelop their profiles are often the ones who see branding and strategy as evil spirits.

My first opportunity to put my views into practice was with an immensely talented pianist, Andrew McCormack, who asked for my help. It started with casual advice, grew into helping him define his career plan, and ultimately becoming his manager. Thankfully, the experiment worked. Within this, I negotiated and re-negotiated Andrew’s contracts with his various record labels. I learned first-hand how labels operated (or perhaps failed to do so).

 

Andrew McCormack

 

Alongside managing Andrew, I also ended up helping his talented partner - vocalist Noemi Nuti - release her debut album, ‘Nice to Meet You’. Initially we pursued the conventional route and were in a series of frustrating negotiations with various labels when it suddenly hit me that I should create the vehicle to release Noemi’s album. And so, 'Ubuntu Music' was born.

 

 

 

 

[Noemi Nuti and Andrew McCormack with Vista].

 

 

 

 

I partnered with an excellent trumpet player, Quentin Collins, and in 2015 we released Noemi’s debut album, ‘Nice to Meet You’, on what became the Ubuntu Music brand. It was a real success and, shortly thereafter, QCBA (Quentin Collins & Brandon Allen) was released. People began to take notice.

 

 

[Quentin Collins with Andrew McCormack, Kyle Eastwood, Graeme Belvins and Martyn Kaine playing Big Noise From Winnetka in 2012].

 

 

 

The real game-changer for the Label was an opportunity to take a bunch of 30+ year old audio-cassette tapes living in a shoebox and bring the magic of the music back to life. These tapes contained six nights of Chet Baker playing live in a small London club. The challenges - legal, technical and otherwise - were daunting, to say the least. But the perseverance of our talented team paid off and, in 2016, Chet Baker ‘Live in London’ was released, taking the world by storm. And the rest is history.

It’s an honour to release recently the music of such amazing artists as Camilla George, Leo Richardson, Trio HLK (with Evelyn Glennie & Steve Lehman), Mark Kavuma, Alina Bzhezhinska and Martin Speake. Ubuntu Music is now recognised around the world and the quality of our artists, along with the way we choose to do business, is attracting other exceptionally talented artists all the time. You could say that I’m a very lucky guy!  

 

Mark Kavuma

Mark Kavuma

 

 

Zwelakhe Sisulu

 

 

‘Ubuntu’ is an unusual name – how did that come about?

Ubuntu is an extraordinary word, which comes from the cradle of civilisation. It means, “I am, because we are” in various African dialects. In other words, we are all connected in some capacity and the actions of one person affects all of us in some way. I first heard the word when I was managing a group of communications agencies in South Africa. I had the enormous privilege of working with a family member who was one of Nelson Mandela’s closest friends. The late Zwelakhe Sisulu, son of Walter Sisulu (Mandela’s strategic partner and lifelong friend), taught me the real meaning and practical application of ubuntu.

Zwelakhe Sisulu

 

Essentially, you must come to know and understand the essence of an individual - as a human being - before even contemplating a business relationship with that person. Once you make that connection, everything then becomes clearer. And it works. I promised myself that, if I ever started my own business, it would be called ubuntu and I would live by those principles and manage my business accordingly.

 

 

 

 

 

Custard Cream, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?

Please don’t laugh, but do you have any McVitie’s Dark Chocolate Digestive Thins? Sinfully addictive stuff…

 

Ah, you have caught me out there! Perhaps next time. In the meanwhile I could do a chocolate digestive and cut it in half? Do you find that the market for music sales changing? Digital downloads seem to be increasing but there still seems to be a demand for CDs and vinyl appears to be popular, although I wonder if that is just a fad? How difficult is it to anticipate the way things will go?

Hey, if any of us had these answers, we’d all be rich and famous by now! The bottom line is this…the industry remains in a perpetual state of flux. All bets are off. Digital is here to stay and, if anyone thinks otherwise, I suggest they consider pursuing an alternative career. The fundamental keys to success include:

 

The debate concerning vinyl versus digital formats is a false economy. However, the discussions themselves, along with the fragmentation of music engagement channels (rumour is that audio cassettes are coming back), are helping to re-energise the recorded music industry. And overall sales have been increasing, following many years of steady decline. Look at the worldwide statistics for the full year of 2017:

 

 

Turning to this beautiful thing we call jazz (and, no, I will not attempt to define the genre), the sector is on fire. The jazz scene in London is a beacon for creativity and is now recognised as such all over the world. Even America’s definitive rock magazine, Rolling Stone, recently featured an article entitled, “Jazz’s New British Invasion”.

 

John Coltrane Both Directions at Once

 

 

 

To support the point further, the latest John Coltrane album, ‘Both Directions at Once’ (The Lost Album), recorded 55 years ago and released 51 years after his tragic death, entered the Top 20 Album Chart in the UK at the end of June … which was the sax genius’ biggest ever opening week of sales and his highest chart position of all time. The music business is alive and well, jazz is where it’s at, and digital is the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you recently signed up any artists making debut releases that we should take notice of?

There’s a lot in the pipeline that helps get me out of bed with a smile every day. We’ll start with young trumpet ace Mark Kavuma’s debut, just released, and receiving critical acclaim everywhere. Then there’s Pete Lee, a masterful pianist and composer, who released ‘The Velvet Rage’ with us in June. Nick Costley-White, an exceptional guitarist, released his debut quartet album, ‘Detour Ahead’ in July. Then there’s jazz legends Eric Alexander and Harold Mabern - The New York All-Stars - with a live London recording out in September. Camilla George’s brilliant second album is in late September. Alex Munk’s Flying Machines drops in October. Vocalist Jessica Radcliffe and saxophonist Helena Kay release their debut albums in December.

 

 

[Pete Lee playing his beautiful composition The Velvet Rage live with the Amika strings. This is the title tune from his new album released in June].

 

 

 

Most of 2019 is sorted and will include Laurence Hobgood (Kurt Elling’s pianist & composer of 17 years), Gwen & Tiana (African jazz/world music artists with Femi Temowo on guitar and as producer), Rob Cope (a jazz-space exploration, with Rob Luft and Elliott Galvin) and James Copus (one of the hottest trumpet players of his generation). Plus, Leo Richardson, Andrew McCormack, Noemi Nuti and others. The list goes on!

 

 

Chet Baker Live In London II

 

 

At the end of 2016 you also released that Chet Baker ‘Live in London’ album with John Horler’s trio. You mentioned a whole lot of tapes that had been discovered, is there more of that to come?


Chet Baker ‘Live in London Volume II’
will be out this month, August. The John Horler Trio was Chet Baker’s rhythm section, when Baker came over to tour in the UK. Ubuntu Music’s first release with Baker and the Trio gained worldwide critical acclaim. In Downbeat Magazine, the jazz music bible in the US, this album was selected by its readers as one of the best historical releases in the world that year. Given the amazing reaction to the original ‘Live in London’, we had sufficient quality material remaining to release a second double CD album, ‘Live in London Volume II’. We’re launching the album with a showcase at The Jazz Café in London, featuring the original John Horler Trio, along with Quentin Collins on trumpet, Leo Richardson on saxes and the fabulous young talent of Cherise Adams-Burnett on vocals.

 

 

 

I'm sure that will be as successful as the first. Not only is Chet (and for that matter John Horler) eternally popular, the discovery of previously unreleased recording is always intriguing. What else do you have planned generally for the coming year?


These are closely guarded secrets.

 

I understand, but I do have another chocolate digestive biscuit here .....

In that case, for you, Ian, I’ll make the rare exception. Fundamentally, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and continuously strive for improvement. The Ubuntu Music label connects artists with audiences through beautiful music. The quality of the music is paramount, and I take tremendous pride in serving the artists who have joined the Ubuntu family. We are and will remain a diversified label, in terms of music style and human culture. Now I’m developing deeper relationships with key venues. I’m curating live music recordings which bring out the true essence of what jazz music is all about and I’m submitting a charity proposal which will help young female artists to further their careers in jazz. I’d also like to do some lecturing ..... and I will be 'expanding my business model into related sectors'... you will have to wait and see where that goes. As long as I continue to have this much fun with my clothes on, I will just keep doing what I’m doing, indefinitely!

 

That's the last of my chocolate digestives, but I could do a chocolate Hob Nob ...?

Thanks, but I’m stuffed and exhausted! I greatly appreciate your having me here. Until next time and, when we do so, I’ll bring the Digestive Thins along…

 

Sounds like successful branding from McVitie's......! Oh, and Kenny Barron and Charlie Haden playing Spring Is Here - I'll put it on now ....


 

 

Click here for the Ubuntu Management Group website.

Click here for Ubuntu Music

 

Digestive Thins

 

Utah Teapot

 

Click HERE to join our mailing list

Visit us on Facebook Facebook logo

Other pages you might find of interest :

More Tea Breaks
Tracks Unwrapped
Full Focus
Video Juke Box

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2018