Happy 50th, Cadillac Records

    London independent Cadillac was founded in 1973, as major labels previously open to new jazz found it made little money

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    Left, collective staff of Cadillac, Ogun, Collet's & Ray's in 2006; right, John Jack. Photos courtesy Matthew Wright

    This Wednesday, 5 April 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of Cadillac Records, set up by John Jack and Mike Westbrook in 1973 to release Mike’s album Live! (SGC1001). It came at a time when small independent labels were surfacing, after major record companies had largely withdrawn their support for jazz.

    The releases that followed on the label reflected John’s wide appreciation of jazz styles. The constant factors for John were improvisation, honest expression of emotion, and creativity, leading him to issue George Lewis, Bruce Turner, Stan Tracey, the Christie Brothers Stompers, Bobby Wellins, Dudu Pukwana, Bunk Johnson, Mike Osborne, Joe Harriott, Trevor Watts Moiré Music, Ken Colyer & the Crane River Jazz Band, Andy Sheppard and David Murray.

    When John died in 2017, long-time friend and collaborator Mike Gavin took over and has guided it successfully through the difficulties of recent years, issuing material from the archives and continuing John’s policy with releases by Albert Nicholas, Evan Parker, Tori Handsley and others. It has even branched out into book publishing with Jazz & Cricket – An Unlikely Combination, which received accolades including being one of The Cricketer magazine books of the year 2021.

    The label will celebrate the anniversary with a selection of reissues from its back catalogue. Among them are The Jazz Doctors: Intensive Care by the Billy Bang Quartet (with Frank Lowe) from 1983/1984, on both CD (SGC020), which includes an unreleased session, and vinyl (SGCLP020); the Chris Francis/Jim Dvorak band’s Joy (with Frank Roberts, Ernest Mothle and Keith Bailey) from 1976 (SGCLP022/SGC022); two Johnny Dyani reissues on vinyl – Rejoice (SGCLP023) and Together (SGCLP024); plus the third digital single from Trinidad steel-pan project Younger Zen – Oy Me Redentor (SGCS1023).

    Later in the year (28 September 2023) there will be a live event at Café Oto, arranged with Hazel Miller’s label Ogun Recordings, which is also celebrating 50 years of existence.