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Owner of Local Jazz Label Has Plenty of Headaches

After a year in business, jazz entrepreneur Otto Gust is experiencing good times and bad times with his Time Is Records, San Diego’s only jazz label.

The biggest headache has been distributors who take delivery of large orders and don’t pay him for months.

“I’m afraid to say how much money is owed,” said Gust, who wouldn’t name any of the culprits because he may take legal action soon. “They’re tens of thousands behind. I’m putting out product, growing at a fast pace, but I’m not getting my just reward. Nothing makes me more sick to my stomach.

“I’ve expanded my staff and my building, we’re doing great radio promotions, getting good airplay from coast to coast. Then we send our product out, distributors sell it to stores and get paid, and we don’t.”

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Also getting Gust’s gander are bootleg releases of material to which Gust has the rights, such as a “Bird and Chet” CD now circulating in Europe. Gust said this bootleg was made from the original, poor-sounding vinyl album.

Gust’s own version of “Bird and Chet,” which was digitally cleaned up before release earlier on CD, has sold 2,000 copies to date, a disappointing showing for a project starring two legends.

“The reason it’s such a deadbeat is that it’s been around so many times through these bootlegs.”

Last but not least on Gust’s headache list are, there are the musicians angling for a deal. Some of them have been griping because Gust sometimes asks newcomers to shoulder the expense of recording--a day of studio time that would generate an album’s worth of straight-ahead jazz costs about $600.

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“No label’s producing albums from scratch,” he added. “I tell musicians, ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’ They have a one-time cost (of recording). We have the ongoing costs of promoting, mastering, pressing CDs.”

Even so, Gust has ponied up money for new artists he likes.

“Everything I have out now, including the albums by (bassist) Nathan Berg and (guitarist) Robert Conti, was produced by me from scratch--I paid.”

But bad times aside, Gust’s label is making some respectable music. The two latest releases from Time Is are guitarist Dave Murdy’s “That Goes to Show Ya!” and a 1953 Big Band date at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Costa Mesa featuring Los Angeles trumpeter Shorty Rogers.

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Gust obtained the Rogers tape from an enthusiast who made it on an old reel-to-reel deck. Rogers and company trade some good licks on a range of material including several Rogers originals, but even with digital enhancement, the album suffers from thin sound quality.

Los Angeles-based Murdy, also a member of the jazz-rock group Kilauea, shows promise with carefully crafted improvisations on material ranging from three of his own numbers to tunes by Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Wes Montgomery.

Meanwhile, Gust is negotiating with a national, New York-based distributor that he believes will relieve him of painful dealings with unreliable regionals. And he is starting a second label called Society Cafe to handle easy listening music.

Internationally known bassist Chubby Jackson says he likes to show audiences a good time more than impress them with profound licks. Jackson has a refreshing attitude among jazz musicians. He believes it is possible for audiences to overdose on excessive solos, so he keeps his numbers short and sweet. Jackson re-unites with his son Duffy, a drummer, this Thursday through Sunday at the Jazz Note in Pacific Beach (above Diego’s restaurant).

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Jackson the Elder has spread his good-time approach through associations with many of the greats (Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich and others). Junior played on recent albums by George Benson and Jon Hendricks and is flying in from Long Island for these dates. Joining the Jacksons will be San Diegans Gary LeFebvre on saxes and Bob Hamilton on piano. This fall, Time Is Records will release a live album featuring the Jacksons recorded 10 years ago in a Miami club.

Last August, San Marcos jazz buff Jim Miller convinced management at San Luis Rey Downs Country Club in Bonsall to test a Tuesday night jazz policy for two weeks. Tonight, Miller and a host of top San Diego area musicians and fans will celebrate the first anniversary of Tuesday night Jazz at the Downs. Five different bands will be on hand, and the evening will end with a monster jam. Tonight would be a bad night to check it out, however: All 160 tickets are accounted for.

RIFFS: Del Mar guitarist Peter Sprague, plagued for weeks by tendinitis in his right index finger, plans to take two months off to let the digit heal. A new recording from Braziljazz (Sprague, singer Kevyn Lettau and percussionist Michael Shapiro) will be out in October. . . .

Colombian guitarist Juan Carlos Quintero plays two shows at Elario’s tonight at 8 and 10, followed this Friday and Saturday nights by pianist and composer Andy Laverne. . . .

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Los Angeles reedman Gary Foster will perform at the Horton Grand this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with pianist Alan Broadbent.

CRITIC’S CHOICE: AFRO RUMBA AND QUARTETO AGAPE

Percussionist Gene Perry started Afro Rumba in 1983, and put together a second group called Quarteto Agape last year. Both will be on hand tonight at 8 to play KSDS-FM’s “Jazz Live” concert at the San Diego City College Theater.

Quarteto Agape consists of Perry’s congas, plus timbales, bass and piano. Their opening set tonight is likely to range from Latinized versions of jazz standards such as Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now” to Afro-Carribean- and Latin-flavored originals.

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The 10-piece Afro Rumba, which will play the second set, which includes a four-piece horn section and vocalists, is dedicated to spicy salsa and meringue. If you can’t make it downtown, you can listen to the radio simulcast on KSDS (88.3). Or catch Afro Rumba on Thursday and Friday nights, and Quarteto Agape Saturday nights, at Croce’s in downtown San Diego through the summer.


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