The cliché goes that a musician has more creative freedom with a small label. To an extent that saying does hold some water. Small labels have small budgets and time constraints during recording that the Blue Notes and Verves of the world don’t have to worry about too much. This allows the artist to take chances with his music that he normally wouldn’t do if pressured by a major label to produce something with a bit more accessibility.
Palmetto, the Greenwich Village-based vanity label of guitarist Matt Balitsaris, is one of the more inventive smaller jazz labels around. Founded by Balitsaris in 1990 as an outlet for his own music, Palmetto has since grown to include in its stable veterans such as Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz and Andrew Hill, as well as young up-and-comers like Ben Allison and Medicine Wheel, Matt Wilson, Rick Margitza, and Pete McCann. Now in its twelfth year and with over seventy releases in its catalog, Palmetto has released a sampler of its releases.
I am not a big fan of various artist compilations, but as far as compilation albums are concerned, this one isn’t bad. A huge credit to this goes to Balitsaris, who chose each track on the compilation and produced most of the fourteen tracks within. The songs range from the low modal tinkering of Thirteen Ways "Out Someplace (Blues For Matthew Shepard)" to the powerful piano playing of Andrew Hill on "Ball Square"; the experimental sounds of Ben Allison and Medicine Wheel’s "Riding the Nuclear Tiger" to the hip-hop and B3 enthused "Keep A Thing Happening" by Larry Goldings’ Voodoo Dogs.
I would still prefer to pick up an entire album of a certain artist if I had the choice, but this sampler is a good reference point for people who don’t want to waste their money buying something they won’t listen to entirely, which is one of the positive aspects about samplers.