In an age where we are told that no-one wants physical musical product anymore, setting up a vinyl based record label might seem like a folly. Gerald Short has not only done this but has run Jazzman records since the late 1990's and has been successful in putting out material on a number of other labels as well. For those who don't know, Jazzman unearth the finest soul, funk, R&B (think Fats Domino rather than TLC), rock n roll and the delightfully named genre 'tittyshaker' (sleazy instrumentals) as well as some modern music influenced by the above. The result has been some wonderful music - compilations of Floridan and Texas funk, unearthed gems by Nina Simone and Letta Mbulu and albums by the super funky and wonderfully named Natural Yoghurt Band to name but a few. Jazzman thrive because they dig deeper than most to find genuine obscurities and ensure they release music and packaging only of the finest quality. I caught up with Gerald to find out how a vinyl record label survives in the Twenty First century. If you like what you read, sign up to Jazzman's podcast at
Where did your particular musical journey begin? What was the record that changed your life?
Like many teenagers in the it was with John Peel. This was back in the ‘80s, although unlike most of listeners who were into the Jesus & Mary Chain etc my ear gravitated towards the oldies that he would play every now and then; pre-war folk blues, dancehall jazz 78s, ‘50s novelty hillbilly records etc. The past is so much more interesting and romantic than the present.
When did you first get the idea of setting up a label?
Back in the ‘90s I was a full-time record dealer. My best customer was myself, and I started to get quite a decent collection together, including some rare stuff that was in high demand. It wasn’t hard to put 2 and 2 together and start a label in order to reissue these records so other people could enjoy them too. I was a complete novice, with zero training, so it wasn’t easy to know where to start or how to go about the process. So I started with 45s because they were cheaper and easier to manage, doing a whole LP was more expensive, risky and harder to organise.
What reissue are you most proud of releasing?
It’s always the next one, the one that I’m currently working on which I want to be better than all the others! But some landmarks along the way were the Texas Funk album, which along with Stones Throw’s ‘Funky 16 Corners’ and 100s of bootlegs was one the first properly annotated funk comps; then again James Bell’s ‘Funky 16 Corners’ 45 was the hottest thing on the planet at the time and it was an honour to witness James himself show us the dance steps in his front room. More recently I’m still quite pleased with the Nathan Davis album although typically it hasn’t sold as well as I would have liked.
What was the thinking behind setting up the sub labels (Stark Reality, Soul Spectrum etc)
Stark Reality is/was a label set up to release modern music by current artists and bands. We started with Cherrystones, Little Barrie etc. The premise was new music influenced by old. I’m still into it but it has fallen by the wayside as I just don’t have the time or resources to do it properly. Soul Spectrum, Jukebox Jam, SOUL7 and FUNK45 are imprints for releasing music of a particular style rather than have everything on Jazzman otherwise it would get overwhelmed.
Do you still get all the 45 vinyl pressed in Nashville?
They were taking too long so I started to get them done over here. But the quality hasn’t been too good of late so I have recently started getting them done in Nashville again.
Do you think there are still lots of hidden gems out there to discover? The scene seems to be focusing on more worldwide sounds now through labels like Finders Keepers..
Discovering records is like discovering oil. The days when oil was found just bubbling up through the ground are long gone. Now you have to dig deeper, which is exactly what we do.
How often do you play out these days?
I have a young family now so I try not to be away DJing more than twice a month.
I know Keb Darge and Shadow had an influence on you. Which other DJs and producers do you rate?
I like Rex Doane from WFMU, Gaslamp Killer, Gilles Peterson when he’s down in the basement
Where's your own taste at right now?
My tastes don’t really change over the years, I’ve always liked the same stuff I just need more of it. These days I’m buying more tittyshakers than anything else because there are so many out there I don’t have and they’re easy to get hold of, many of the other things I like ie funk, modal, latin etc I either have already or are too expensive or hard to find
Any guilty pleasures?
I watched Bohemian Rhapsody on youtube the other day all the way through, it was so good I did it again…
What's the take up been like for the podcasts?
I really don’t know and I don’t really want to know. If I see the stats and they are low then it might put me off doing them at all. But I do know that some people listen, which is fine with me, I’m not about huge figures whether it’s record sales or radio listeners, I’m in the minority-music business after all, and I’m fine with that really.
What's planned for the remainder of 2011 and beyond?
Business as usual. Old, forgotten and obscure nuggets and gems, re-released and curated to be appreciated by a global audience. Next is an album by French jazzman Jef Gilson, his life story and best music covered by one album. To me this is the ultimate work, it does not get better or more important than this; the album will be responsible in representing his life’s work, something I don’t take lightly, and it’s something I am very proud, and humbled, to be able to do.