Most record labels tend to be a bit genre-centric. Locally, we’ve got Ghetto Recorders (garage), Mack Avenue (jazz), Small Stone (hard rock), and plenty of others. But there really aren’t many labels like the Few Records.
“Being in music school at Wayne State University had a huge influence on me, where I was meeting all these different people from different backgrounds with different tastes,” says Dominic Arellano, founder and owner of the Few Records, who worked for various labels before launching the Few a year ago.
“I was really into electronic dance music, so when Sam Beaubien [né Will Sessions] played me Miles Davis’ ‘Rated X,’ I heard drum & bass. The more I met others the more I found out that it wasn’t that they weren’t listening to other genres, they just didn’t have anyone to introduce them to these other styles of music.”
And that’s where Arellano’s vision is realized. The Few’s mantra is “No Genres, Just Good Music.” This label caters to the true music fan -- someone who loves techno just as much as hip-hop just as much as jazz just as much as classical just as much as prog rock dance-fuzz. It may sound daunting, but really, “As long as it’s good, people will appreciate it.”
When Arellano started his business, he had just one act signed: Will Sessions. A year ago, you probably hadn’t heard of Beaubien, the mastermind behind the musical collective and general concept “Will Sessions.” But since then he has introduced his jazz fusion/rare funk act to the DSO 37/11 launch party (the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records with Monica Blaire), City Fest, Dally in the Alley, not to mention the buzzed about shows with Detroit’s biggest hip-hop stars (Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, and Phat Kat).
Will Sessions is also the “house band” for the often-imitated, never-duplicated Funk Night, named by Paper Magazine in 2008 as America’s Best Party. Sometimes playing as a 3- to 4-piece jazz ensemble or an 8-piece funk riot with a full horn section, Will Sessions has huge crossover appeal into other genres, and Beaubien is already making a name for himself as one of Detroit’s most sought-after musicians.
“There was a time in 2004 when I remember seeing Sam on trumpet before Will Sessions even started,” Arellano recalls. “Even back then I thought the sky was the limit for him; he really is THAT talented. As a music director and song writer, he’s amazing, he can do whatever he wants: songwriting, performing ... anything.”
Soon after, the atmospheric, lyrical indie-folk ensemble Adieu joined the Few (fans of Jeff Buckley, Beirut, and Elliott Smith will want to check them out). And over the last few weeks, the Few diversified even more by adding Silverghost, New Music Detroit (a post-classical act affiliated with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra), and DJs Patrick Russell (formerly of Fresh Corp) and Steven Robert (from Tour Detroit). Russell and Robert are also joining the Few’s staff as the new A&R reps for the label.
On Saturday the Magic Stick and the Majestic Cafe will be the site for the Few Records’ one-year anniversary party, “We Are the Few.” The line-up for the evening reads like a Detroit music best-of list: Silverghost, Will Sessions Funk Big Band, Zoos of Berlin (the most polite band on the planet), New Music Detroit, Adieu, Steven Robert, Patrick Russell, the Replicas, and the Grammy-nominated artist-producer and creative director of next year’s Movement, Carl Craig.
“Everyone from the label is all over the place genre-wise and they’re all playing, and everyone else on the bill is really good for what they do and fit the overall aesthetic of the label. I felt that the first anniversary party should really reflect the diversity of label.”
In conjunction with this genre-defying sound spectacle, there will also be multiple art installations on display in both venues created by the new Belle Isle arts project ACCESS Arts. Greening of Detroit, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is also on board as a promotional sponsor. Tickets are $8 before 11:30 p.m. and $10 after.
“With ACCESS Arts and Greening of Detroit getting people in the community involved through art and awareness, this is a great way to showcase the strengths of the city in different ways," Arellano says.
For the label head, a passion for the city of Detroit and supporting its growth is as significant as his passion for music and art. “I’ve seen so many friends and so many artists leaving the city … our artists should be staying here. As much as the city wants to make art an economic stimulator, we need to keep the artists here in order to do that."
It's been a busy year for Few Records who just launched its Web site, which will feature podcasts, free tracks, label news, event information, and more. And the crew are planning a new bi-monthly event called “60 Days,” with resident DJs Patrick Russell, Monty Luke (Planet E), and Steven Robert, as well as special guests.
But this is just the beginning. Arellano says a Will Sessions jazz fusion EP will drop in early 2010 and Silverghost is working on its first full-length LP.
A distribution deal with Carl Craig will also help spread the sound. “To have him notice and want to be involved, for him to say, ‘Yeah I like this stuff, let’s do something together,’ to have him give us this opportunity was huge,” Arellano says. “It’s like working with a hero; you just get goose bumps.”