The Province: “Keeping Tradition of No Tradition”

Originally published by The Province | 18 Feb

Raymon Torchinsky and his son Joe aren’t rewriting history — but possibly adding to it.

Their Bronze Age record label is small, independent and anything but commercial, and so unwittingly is part of a tradition. They are novices in the music industry, virtually babes in the woods, but that is tradition, too.

Starting a new label at a time when the record industry is in free fall might actually be the smartest thing they’ve done.

“Even though the industry is in free fall, there are opportunities,” Joe notes. “You never know what’s going to be successful.”

History has shown he might be right.

There are many examples of how small labels were formed to sell music to people who weren’t being served by a handful of major labels that had grown large, slow and conservative. Country, blues, jazz, hip hop, even rock got their starts on small indies.

Elektra started with a microphone and a tape recorder to make enough of one folk record, maybe 50, to a waiting audience. Island was formed to peddle ska to the English. They are now both huge corporations and part of the malaise afflicting the record industry.

Bronze Age will likely never become that big. Ray identifies more with ESP, a scabrous label that had some success releasing jazz — by Sun Ra, for example — but also The Fugs and Timothy Leary.

“All that music wouldn’t exist if ESP hadn’t recorded it.” Ray says.

Jazz is on Torchinsky’s mind right now. Bronze Age so far has released just two records — by Joe’s studio project, the new wavish Hi-fi Wives, and the elder Torchinsky’s live participation in Nouveau Jazz Libre Du Quebec.

He’ll reunite with NJLDQ Feb. 20 for a concert of free jazz during the Western Front’s salute to the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s monumental A Love Supreme.

Guy Thouin (drums) , Bryan Highbloom (sax), and Torchinsky (sax) also will give a workshop on free jazz for aspiring musicians wanting to dive in.

For the occasional listener, free jazz can be difficult. As the term implies, it holds to no key, little if any structure, no rules. On the outside, free jazs is formless squawks. On the inside, it is transcendent. It is spontaneous, of the moment, impossibe to repeat.

The record is an unlikely way to launch Bronze Age, but that is the point.

[Torchinsky explains:] “I think of it as following the tradition of no tradition. It is a rejection of tradition.”

“It’s direct communication,” he continues. “It could be boring, a little flaky, but it could also be extremely interesting.”

The Bronze Age record has been well-received in the Montreal free jazz community, which proves the point for the existence of the small indie.

Ray Torchinsky went to UBC and graduated in geography. He’s all but retired now and seldom acts as a teacher or consultant. In the early ’80s, he took out his sax to play with a casual rock band, Close Quarters. He also got involved for 10 years with the running of the CellarJazz label and the club’s free jazz nights. Yet until being invited to be one-third of Nouveau Jazz Libre, Torchinsky, 62, hadn’t played sax in 35 years.

So he is now a veteran musician and looking forward to the workshop.

“It’s for people who are looking for new ideas,” he explains.

Which also might be the aim of Bronze Age — to provide the unusual.

“Whatever we do,” Torchinsky vows, “we want to feel that this is of a high standard.”