Leonardo “MoonJune” Pavkovic: The CirdecSongs Interview

Barry Gordy. Clive Owen. Ahmet Ertegun. Sam Phillips. Alfred Lion and Max Margulis. Creed Taylor. Bettina Richards. Each has made a name for himself as a record label owner. Thousands of artists and musicians owe their livelihood to the efforts of these men. Their contributions to music have resonated worldwide for decades.

The same can be said for Leonardo Pavkovic. Thanks to him and his label — MoonJune Records — Jazz, progressive rock, and fusion artists are able to have their musical efforts sent around the world, where they are able to resonate with fans who may never have heard them otherwise.

Along with Matthew Halsall (who runs British jazz label Gondwana Records), Pavkovic runs one of my favorite record labels. The artists in his stable are talented, creative, and more than willing and able to continually raise the bar on what makes quality music.

While Gondwana appears to focus on the British jazz scene, MoonJune seems to cover parts of Britain, along with the rest of Europe and Asia. From the American perspective, jazz traditionally comes from places like New Orleans, Chicago, and New York, and Philadelphia. Some of those jazz fans would be stunned to hear what is coming out of musicians from places like Croatia, Romania, Indonesia, and Turkey.

Leonardo with Markus Reuter in Rio de Janerio, Brazil (photo by Cristiano Oliveira)

To be certain, the MoonJune jazz sound is different from the American sound. But it’s still very much jazz. If the music has “that” sound, Pavkovic won’t be far away.

Playing the “Six Degrees” game with Pavkovic as the center almost feels like an exercise in futility, because you’ll rarely need more than two steps to connect a progressive rock or jazz musician to him. Whether it’s legendary bands like Soft Machine or Stick Men, or a musician like guitarist Jan Akkerman or someone more modern like touch guitarist Markus Reuter, guitarist Mark Wingfield, or drummer Asaf Sirkis, the mark of Pavkovic will almost certainly be close by.

Leonardo, guitar legend John McLaughlin, and MoonJune artist Beledo

My first encounter with Pavkovic came shortly after I interviewed Markus Reuter last year. Leonardo knew he had found a musical obsessive, and wanted to nurture that compulsion. It was a most welcome change, given the number of people I deal with who simply don’t get it. He asked me if I would be interested in learning about a few more artists he knew and worked with. Sure, I said. I’m always eager to learn. “Great,” he said via email. “I’ll send you some CDs.”

I told him I appreciated it, and thought nothing more of the chat. The discs would arrive whenever they did. I had other things to worry about. One day, about 10 days later, my landlord sent me a text saying there was a large box waiting for me at my front door. Funny, I thought, I’m not expecting anything. Sure enough, I found a box waiting outside with my name on it.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! All told, I was looking at 70 CDs. There are still a couple of I haven’t heard yet. But what I have heard has proven to be nothing short of remarkable.

MoonJune is a record label dedicated mostly to jazz, fusion, and progressive rock. That being said, the majority of the music is coming from nowhere near America, or England for that matter. Pavkovic has given voice to musicians from Serbia, Indonesia, and Spain among many other places. To become a devotee of MoonJune is to open an artery of highly entertaining, and mostly unexpected, musical talents from around the world.

Leonardo with Dani Rabin (left) and Danny Markovitch of Marbin. (Photo by Randy Babcock)

Pavkovic is also one of the busiest booking agents in the business, which helps him to finance the MoonJune efforts. It doesn’t take long to learn an artist is somehow connected to Pavkovic on one level or another.

Like everyone else in the music business, Pavkovic has suffered a major blow in terms of lost revenue, thanks to the Coronavirus. He was just one show into an Asian tour featuring Stick Men and Gary Husband when everyone was essentially sent home to wait out the pandemic. There is very little to spin positively here. He and all others like him are truly hurting.

One would be hard-pressed to find someone eager to say something negative about Leonardo Pavkovic. He might swing a heavy bat within this section of the music industry, but he chooses a soft, personal touch with the people he encounters even while being a shrewd businessman. He also maintains the courage of his convictions, and is eager to stand up for what he believes is right even in the face of deep opposition, regardless of where it may come from. Pavkovic is not one to mince words.

As it turns out, Leonardo is just as generous with his time as he is with his music. This is my first  interview to span two sessions (hardly novel, but there’s a first time for everything for everyone). The man has a lot to say, and I have no problem letting him say it. From his home in New York City, Leonardo Pavkovic was kind enough to participate in a CirdecSongs Interview.

Leonardo with bassist Yaron Stavi (left) and Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music at Phil’s home in London, 2018. (Photo by Andres Mesa)

CirdecSongs: Do you have a background as a musician? How has that affected your approach where your label is concerned?

Leonardo Pavkovic: No, I don’t have any background as a musician. I’ve never played any instrument. But I have been an active, enthusiastic listener since my early childhood, growing up with my maternal grandparents in the former Yugoslavia.

My grandmother, Roksanda, was a formally trained lyric mezzo-soprano, and she sang for many years in a local choir. Her passion was classical music, but she also had an affinity for quality contemporary pop from the 50’s and 60’s. She loved Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Paul Anka, Sergio Endrigo, Domenico Modugno, Mireille Mathieu, Gilbert Bécaud,  as well as Italian operas of Giuseppe Verdi, Gioacchino Antonio Rossini e Giacomo Puccini. She also liked Mozart.

Of course, there were many local Yugoslavian singers – which are unknown to many, but famous in Yugoslavia –  she admired. Above all was Zafir Hadzimanov, who is father of my good friend and extraordinary keyboardist Vasil Hadzimanov. Vasil has released two albums on my label: Alive and Lines In Sand.

My grandmother loved to sing all the time, so my initial exposure to music proved to be quite a diverse assortment in terms of form and style.

How do you define your place within the music industry?

I am totally and completely independent. This is due at least in part to the characteristics of my personality, and the circumstances under which I developed my label.

Without anyone working for me — with no staff whatsoever since Day One —  and because of my stubbornness in refusing to follow any conventional ‘rules,’ I don’t think MoonJune can be put into any box, labeled and placed onto any prefabricated shelves of the so-called music industry. Unintentionally, I discarded all the unspoken protocols of the industry and, instead, have followed my passion and instincts.

For the most part, I deal with “niche” music. With the exception of a handful of marquee artists, my roster is comprised of musicians from distant countries across the globe — artists who happen, also, to be my friends – whom I am helping to promote their music outside of their native countries or regional confines.

To that end, I believe I’ve been fairly successful in exposing a lot of great, deserving talents to a much wider (but still decidedly “niche”) segment of audiences. For example, the extraordinary and unique talent of musicians such as Dewa Budjana, Dwiki Dharmawan, Tohpati, simakDialog, and a number of others from the exotic country of Indonesia; or Vasil Hadzimanov and Dusan Jevtovic, both originally from Serbia. I believe fans of progressive music weren’t afforded the opportunity to become acquainted with so many great, deserving artists and their unique art – from these and other countries – prior to the impact of MoonJune.

I do not feel the need to address questions as to why I did this or that, or why I am still running the label in such a non-conformist fashion since 2001. My approach to MoonJune has never been framed in any conventional manner. Initially, it just happened. And it’s still happening, and will continue to happen.

What sets MoonJune apart from other labels?

There is no other record label in the world called “MoonJune Records,” or run by an individual named Leonardo Pavkovic. My approach, as just described, certainly has served to set MoonJune apart from other labels with a more orthodox approach to the business end of the equation.

The lack of a formal business structure and support staff is not uncommon among labels whose products are ‘non-mainstream’ and/or appeal to a less-than-widespread audience. Out of necessity, overhead must be streamlined. Perhaps what makes MoonJune stand out is the level of visibility I’ve been able to achieve through rather modest advertising. The caliber of both artists and art have propelled the label in that regard as well.

As far as assessments go, I’ll leave it to other people, if they so desire, to judge me and try and discern why I am so different, if indeed I am! I am just myself, with all my strengths and all my weaknesses. I do not believe in perfection. For me, this is liberating in that it removes the pressure of expectations. Armed with this attitude, I am free to enjoy the imperfection of my unusual ways.

The system and methods I have infused within the MoonJune continuum is what I know and what has worked for me. Hopefully, it is the results of this which ultimately sets MoonJune Records apart.

What makes a musician “MoonJune material?”

With a small number of exceptions, all of the featured musicians on my label are or were friends who needed help with promoting their great music to a larger audience.

Over the years, one by one, I decided to help each of them. The common denominators were that they all had great music that I like, they needed help promoting it, and they didn’t have other places to go! While in the first decade I released some albums that I would probably think twice about releasing now, it was all circumstantial. There were personal reasons and situations behind every album MJR put out, then.

Recently, I am more interested in producing live-in-studio recordings with musicians who are not only my friends, but who share the same philosophy with regard to making a new breed of music which delightfully lacks pretense. It is an interactive communion which reflects total and complete artistic freedom. This reflects the philosophy by which many of the timeless jazz records were created, as well as the liberating environment in which many of the most classic ECM (label) albums were born. Just put musicians in the studio, give them license and liberty, and produce an album in one or two days. Or, in some case, in only a matter of hours!

Take musicians such as touch-guitarist Markus Reuter, and guitarist Mark Wingfield, for example: I do not have to tell them anything regarding what to create or how to create it. And why should I? Whatever they create musically, it will be amazing! There is a magical chemistry between us. No other musicians in my life have represented my philosophical thoughts about music and the process of making it more than those two gentlemen. With the addition of the drummer Asaf Sirkis, pianist/keyboardist Dwiki Dharmawan and the increasing presence of drummer/pianist/keyboardist Gary Husband, the ever-evolving “MoonJunista Musical World” is yet again transforming and redefining itself: as it expands into even more new directions and further explores uncharted musical territory.

What musicians from the past would have fit in nicely with the MoonJune vision?

Many! And most of them are great improvisers. But if I had to choose only one, then it would have to be the brilliant, evocative Brazilian pianist and guitarist, Egberto Gismonti. Egberto remains one of my all-time favorite musical heroes. He would perfectly fit into the La Casa Murada sessions’ musical, metaphysical, spiritual and intellectual environment. I could easily see him in a trio with Markus Reuter and Asaf Sirkis, or in duo with Mark Wingfield or with Gary Husband.

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about running a label so far?

“Follow Your Heart” is the title of celebrated composition by the great John McLaughlin. If I had a mantra, that simple phrase would be it.

I have learned to follow my instincts, while remaining loyal to myself and to my principles … and to respect musicians the way they are. Out of necessity, I have learned how to avoid problematic musicians who tote too much personal baggage and drama around with them. The label has evolved to the point where its associations extend primarily to those who can process and accept the contemporary MoonJune approach to making music, and who can fully understand the challenges and difficulties of the current music business environment.

What has surprised you most about the music industry as it exists today? 

I am not surprised at all about anything. Since MoonJune’s inception, the (traditional music) industry has followed a different model for “uck-cess,” compared to my attitudes, mindset and priorities. The only difference is, in that regard, that things have gotten a lot worse from both (traditional) artists’ and labels’ perspectives. I do not follow music business trends and fashions.

MoonJune Records has always been passion-driven’ versus being profit-driven. This core philosophy serves to alienate me from most industry contemporaries, but it is a position I am perfectly okay with, frankly. MoonJune has always been about the art, not the buck.

How close do you feel you’ve come to your original vision for the label? 

I honestly didn’t have any vision in the beginning. My original motivation and intent was simply to help my friends. It just so happened they were individuals who happened to be extraordinary musicians creating excellent music!

My ‘vision’ — for lack of a better term — has really only recently begun to assume a tangible form, having developed organically over just the past six or seven years. When reviewing the MoonJune catalog over this time frame, I can see the transition that is slowly unfolding. The level of excellence continues to rise, I believe. But there also exists a bold, unpretentious commonality, despite the broad diversity of stylistic expressions among the artists. This excites me because it represents growth, maturity, and a discernible identity MoonJune has established for itself.

Musicians associated with me are those who create the identity. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to exist. It’s a mutual affair. During the course of the last 19 years, I have grown up with my musician friends, and they have blossomed with me. We are all growing up together.

How do you define the “European approach” to jazz, and how does that differentiate from the traditional American approach?

Most of the European jazz I like is going beyond jazz which, to me, embodies the spirit of progressive music. The music is not as forced. It tends to breathe more, often having more space in between notes and generally a more understated approach to playing. Of course, there is a lot of European jazz that sounds exactly like American jazz, but I’m not sure I am interested in that. It’s interesting that some of my favorite American jazz artists are those who became who they are in Europe in the 1970’s, specially on ECM: Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie, Bill Frisell, Jack DeJohnette, and some of my favorite albums of Chick Corea and Richie Beirach are on ECM. But I am a huge fan of American jazz. It’s just different from the modern European approach.

That said, to me it is not only a question about from where the jazz originates as it is whether I like it or not! I am not purist, by any means. I like mutations, progressions of ideas, and unbridled, unpretentious, bold creativity.

As an American, I was really struck by the number of top-flight modern European jazz artists. What cities do you feel have been most instrumental (no pun intended) in fostering this musical scene, and what kind of room exists for “cross-pollination,” as it were?

There is great music everywhere in the world, not just in a few so-called dominant jazz or prog countries, such as the USA and then UK, Germany, France or Italy. There are great jazz (and beyond jazz) artists scattered all over Europe. You’ll find amazing talents in most major cities and capitals, as well in minor cities and elsewhere.

Of course, the scene in London or Paris may happen to be bigger than in Lisbon or Istanbul, but that’s all relative. Some European artists are equally as great as leading American artists, who always had the advantage of becoming better known simply because they are Americans. And Americans were always great in marketing and promoting themselves, and the US does have greater platforms for mass promotion.

Some of my favorite jazz and beyond-jazz musicians today are not very well known names in the USA. Maybe they are known to people like me or others who have had the opportunity to hear them. Once someone in the USA interviewed Tony Levin for a bass publication (I cannot recall which one), asking him who is his favorite bass player was. The first name Tony mentioned was ‘Carles Benavent’ – the bass maestro from Barcelona – and the interviewer responded with “Carlos who?” Carles toured in the USA with Chick Corea and Paco De Lucia, but his is not the household name many less talented bass players from the USA are.

It just so happens Carles Benavent is also one of my all-time favorite bass players. And I was finally able to be involved with him, on Dwiki Dharmawan’s great Rumah Batu album in 2018. Unless European musicians live, work, and play often in the USA, it’s quite difficult to become a household name.

Who are the top (MoonJune) label artists to watch? 

Above all, Markus Reuter, Mark Wingfield, Asaf Sirkis and Dwiki Dharmawan. But also Beledo … the guy can play any instrument you can imagine with virtuosity and passion; Dewa Budjana … a very few people in the progressive jazz-rock fusion can write and arrange compositions like this exceptional Balinese guitarist; Vasil Hadzimanov, Dominique Vantomme, Boris Savoldelli, Xavi Reija, Dusan Jevtovic, Stephan Thelen, Michel Delville, Dennis Rea, Pietro Santangelo (saxophonist of the defunct Slivovitz), Marbin, and many others.

Recently, my dear friend of many years, Gary Husband, has become more and more present on my recent releases. As much I have always worshiped him as one of the most talented drummers I’ve ever known, I have a special admiration for him for his phenomenal keyboard and, above all, acoustic piano playing. I am not making any comparisons between Gary Husband and Keith Jarrett, but I would suggest that the substantive difference between the two is that Keith Jarrett has probably around 100+ released albums playing acoustic piano – and all on major jazz labels – and Gary Husband has, by comparison, a very small group of released albums playing the acoustic piano, on obscure labels. While Gary was busy over the past four decades playing drums and/or keyboards with a virtual “who’s who” list in the jazz, fusion, progressive rock and pop genres, Keith just kept grinding out the many great piano works for which he is renowned.

But I’m digressing. There are two duets among the most recent MoonJune albums releases. While they may not be suited for everyone’s tastes, they put Gary Husband’s amazing pianist talents on full display: Tor & Vale with guitarist Mark Wingfield; and Music Of Our Times with touch-guitarist Markus Reuter. MoonJune’s roots trace back to the duet. Not only did these albums revisit a wonderfully intimate format, but they were both monumental works that I’m very pleased and proud to help produce.

More projects will be forthcoming, with Gary and many of these other great artists. Some fabulous efforts are already in the can, or in some phase of production. The best way to remain abreast of the artists to watch is simply to stay tuned!

When you look at the original label signings, who do you feel has grown the most musically, and why?

Perhaps Asaf Sirkis. He was always an amazing drummer, and a great composer; but I truly believe that the projects we’ve done together represents the best works he’s ever delivered. Despite always being a versatile, fluid drummer, he was a player you would listen to and think, “Wow! He sounds like Bill Bruford meets Gary Husband,” or “That cymbal work reminds me of Jack DeJohnette.”

Not that being compared to such enduring legends is a curse, mind you. But now he has hit his stride. He’s got his own thing going on. Both on stylistic and technical levels, I believe Asaf is as complete as drummer as there is out there, now. His Our New Earth album – in collaboration with his partner and vocalist Sylwia Bialas – is a real gem … probably his best album. Asaf’s drumming on “I Wonder How Many Times I’ve Fallen,” from Mark Wingfield’s 2018 album Tales From The Dreaming City, is the epitome of poetic drumming. The tune remains one of my all-time favorite recordings on my label.

In addition to that Wingfield album, his work on Dwiki Dharmawan’s Pasar Klewer and Rumah Batu, Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis’ album The Stone House, Wingfield Reuter Sirkis’ Lighthouse, Dusan Jevtovic’s album No Answer, and on Markus Reuter’s latest release Truce is lush, sensitive work. It’s powerful, yet always dynamic perfection.

And from the “still to be heard” category, there’s the upcoming album of Mark Wingfield features both Gary Husband and Asaf Sirkis . On some of the tunes, both of them play drums! I can tell you, it’s something else. Over the top!

Which MoonJune artists still take your breath away?

Mark Wingfield and Markus Reuter are beyond special. I believe that they are each still at the 25 to 30 percent mark of their potential and with regard to creating fantastic music. Once they reach 100 percent, they will undoubtedly depart to another Universe!

As far as the overall picture is concerned, I’m not sure if anyone will ever come close to Allan Holdsworth in the “take your breath away” category. Allan was sort of an extra-terrestrial. What he executed on guitar was truly “otherworldly”. But, for my tastes, both Mark and Markus are almost there. If they had embarked on their careers in the 70’s or 80’s, they each would have achieved major notoriety, without question. In today’s age, though, and in the industry’s current environment, it is not nearly as easy to reach “guitar stardom.”

Mega talents such as Mark, Markus, Alex Machacek, Nguyên Lê, Agam Hamzah, Tim Motzer, and many others, sadly, will probably never be all that famous. They do not shred. They are not flashy. They do not compromise, but are just themselves. In today’s climate, it seems far easier to achieve fame and notoriety by being a copycat of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, or James Hetfield, than through being an innovative original.

You’ve been asked before, but it’s been awhile and it’s worth asking again: are there any other dream projects/collaborations you want to put together? 

I would like to make an album on which Tony Levin and Carles Benavent play together! Among veteran musicians that I like and that I would like to have as a guest musician on albums by the above-mentioned MoonJunistas are Egberto Gismonti, Ralph Towner, Terje Rypdal, Trilok Gurtu, Ernesto Holman, Paul McCandless, Ron Carter, Jorge Pardo, Christian Vander and Ketil Bjørnstad.

Among those who emerged in the recent two to three decades: Esperanza Spalding, Tigran Hamasyan, Dhafer Youssef, Brian Blade, Kenny Grohowsky, Björn Meyer, and many others. While maintaining an “all is possible” mentality, I would rather work with musicians I am already working with and also focus on discovering new talents. Or talents who are not necessarily “new,” per se, but relatively unknown to most people.

My new friend and out-bloody-rageously talented Italian bass player, Fabio Trentini – who debuted on MoonJune on the Markus Reuter album, Truce – is a perfect example. Fabio will be featured on a couple of upcoming releases: Markus Reuter’s project Oculus with Mark Wingfield, David Cross and Asaf Sirkis; and a second (yet to be titled), with Boris Savoldelli, Markus Reuter, David Cross and the omnipresent Asaf Sirkis.

Occasionally, I may get inspired and add some special guests, but I am more excited to discover someone who is completely unknown and unusual … unique and innovative.

What projects can we look forward to in the coming months? 

I just mentioned two upcoming albums. Also, I have several albums already recorded, mixed and mastered: Mark Wingfield’s Zoji, with English harpsichordist Jane Chapman, and the extraordinary Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale; Dwiki Dharmawan’s Hari Ketiga with Markus Reuter, Boris Savoldelli, and Asaf Sirkis. Both of these albums are startling in their innovative genius. There’s nothing like what you will hear on those two albums. They are real game changers! They will see release soon, and the world will be a better place for it!

There is also another Mark Wingfield album with Gary Husband and Asaf Sirkis; an Asaf Sirkis album with Gary Husband, Kevin Glasgow and Mark Wingfield; Dennis Rea’s new solo album Steppes Ahead, which features Tuvan and Russian musicians, is also in the works; and the improv-power trio of Markus Reuter with experimental guitar maestro Tim Motzer and drummer extraordinaire Kenny Grohowski.

Stick Men’s newest live album, with special guest Gary Husband, Owari – which is the only date the band was able to keep on the recent tour — which had four shows canceled dates in China, three in Japan and one in Hong Kong – will be forthcoming later this year. Also, my best friend, maestro Beledo – the Uruguayan-born and NYC-based multi-instrumentalist — predominantly guitarist, but he’s also an excellent pianist, keyboardist, violinist, bassist, accordionist, and who knows what else he can play — will release his newest effort before year’s end.

All of these projects have me salivating. Despite early bumps in the road, this year, fans of MoonJune are in for a truly memorable 2020!

What would surprise us to learn about you?

Not a lot of people have been privy to this, but I have been heavily dyslexic since my childhood. To that end, everything went much worse back in 1988, when I was stricken ill for three months due to complications from malaria, which I contracted during my four-plus months stay in two Portuguese-speaking African countries: Angola, and São Tomé & Principe. Unable to continue my University studies, plagued by some personal romantic issues and bouncing through a difficult relationship with my mother, I quit everything. Leaving behind a wonderful life I had in the Southern Italy. And with only $500 in my pocket, I arrived in New York City on August 11, 1990. With the kind assistance of an old friend, I restarted my life from zero.

No later than August 12 (the very next day!), I knew instantly that New York City was the place where I could rebuild my life the way I wanted. In retrospect, I believe I have achieved that in 30 years living in the Big Apple. I was pushed by my inner strength and my stubborn positive optimism.

I always had to fight for survival, very often in unfriendly, dangerous waters of life. There wasn’t the time or need to blame anyone. Relying only on myself –  without any skepticism, but conscious about my limitations – I’ve dealt with my dyslexia, and the inherent difficulties which accompany trying to absorb things in a conventional way under such a condition.

I have learned, out of necessity, to improvise in my life. Some of what were at the time small failures wound up being some of my biggest victories helping me graduate, over time, to where I am now. I am a very visual person. I have too much information in my head, which I guess accounts for why I tend to talk so fast. I have so much to say, but with dyslexia I can get lost. I had to adjust and improvise in order to cover my unapparent disability. That said, I love both silence and sounds. There is a reason I prefer instrumental music. I believe it is tied to my dislike for most verbal explanations.

I am not religious, at all, a facet I discovered that when I was still quite young, at age seven or eight. I am interested in a message of “now.” For me, it doesn’t matter what was before, or even why we are here. My perspective is that we are the guests on this planet, and I wish to live my life as an honorary, privileged visitor of our collective existence during my time here. I am no longer interested in the past. What I’ve learned as a former scholar of history is that there is a reason they say, “Historia est vitae magistra” (history is the the tutor of life). And for me, the future is the only past that presently matters.

Markus Reuter likes to say that I am a great musician, even though I never played any instrument! To this day, the La Casa Murada recording sessions between 2016 and 2019 – in an 11th-century mansion one hour west of Barcelona that’s been  converted into a temple of music/recording studio owned by well-known local bass player and composer Jesus Rovira (from the Catalan rock band Lux’n’Busto) are the highest points of my life to this stage. Through this backdrop, in combination with the kind, generous camaraderie of the musicians who have allowed me to be part of their world, I have developed an emotionally and spiritual kinship with — among others — Markus Reuter, Mark Wingfield, Asaf Sirkis, Dwiki Dharmawan, Gary Husband, David Cross, Boris Savoldelli, Yaron Stavi. And I feel I am one of them. To that end, the recent three-hour impromptu session in Tokyo –  which produced my 101st label release Music of our Times by Gary Hudband and Markus Reuter — is one the culminations of the essence of resolve and inner strength. That, to me, is a fruit of the human, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, artistic and creative collective.

My goals exceed anything ‘conventional’, as I am incapable of living a conventional life. Often I struggle, because I am forced to accept and adapt to the rules of the conventional. I am not breaking rules because I want rules to be broken, but because I do not know the other way: I have neither the tools or qualifications necessary to lead a conventional life.

There are no ‘theories’ in albums like Lighthouse, The Stone House, or Music Of Our Times. None. Nor on Hari Ketiga from Indonesian pianist Dwiki Dharmawan — featuring Boris Savoldelli, Markus Reuter and Asaf Sirkis – which is probably the closest spiritual awareness of the subconscious that I have ever experienced in my life. It’s a ‘religious’ experience not based on any theory, speculation or assumption.

There is no past, there is no present. The only constant is the future. And the future is the only present that can narrate objectively about our past and our present, which, de facto, is past as well. For me, the only way to live is found in ‘going forward’. I do not know where my future lies, but it doesn’t matter: it is there.

Anyone willing to talk to me for this long deserves to add anything he’d like, not previously asked. Have at it.

Besides my boutique style and the unorthodox way I run my label, I also book a lot of artists around the globe. Perhaps ironically, most of the artists on my booking roster are not on my label.

That remains my main activity and my main source of income. I do not make any income running the label, unless I have album releases from Soft Machine or Stick Men. And with production costs what they are — which includes massive complimentary CD mail-outs to media around the world — that’s still a relatively small gain. In all candidness, most MoonJune albums have wound up costing more in production expenses than what was recouped from sales. For years, I have had to look at MoonJune Records as a sort of passionate write-off, because my living has been derived almost entirely from the bookings aspect of this business. Sometimes I feel like Don Quixote.

I am privileged to traverse across the planet with the artists I book. I run the label in between my trips, during the interludes where I find time. And, somehow, I manage to succeed because of my unorthodox methods, which I remain at a loss to explain. Sometimes, when reflecting on it all, I really do not know how I am able to continue doing it. But it’s happening! And as Galileo Galilei said once, Eppur Si Muove. “And Yet, It Moves.” Life is always in progression. The future is what counts, because the future is the only past that presently matters.

In 20 years of a booking career, I’ve booked a few thousand shows on all five inhabited continents. Within the ranks of my booking roster, besides MoonJune artists, Soft Machine and Stick Men, I also work in all or some territories with Nektar, Scott Henderson, the Levin Brothers, Frank Gambale, Leo Lyon’s Ten Years After, PFM, Gong (with or without Steve Hillage), Caravan, Jan Akkerman, Stu Hamm, Alex Skolnick, Phil Manzanera and several others.

Prior to now, I have also collaborated with other legendary musical artists, such as Andy Summers, Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio, Hatfield & The North, Elton Dean, Jake E Lee, Loudness, and many others. Also, I would be remiss if I failed to mention just one more legendary name: Ryo Kawasaki, the phenomenal Japanese guitarist who lived in NYC between early 70’s and early 2000’s, and who was based for the past 20 years in Estonia – who suddenly passed away just recently, on April 13. We were planning to go back to japan later this year.

Japan, the rest of Asia and Latin America are my main markets. In Japan alone, I’ve booked close to 70 tours, and I have visited 52 times. I love to travel, I feel the only place that I belong to is the Planet Earth. Rather than being a ‘patriot” of any country, I feel more like an ‘Earthiot’. I am blessed in that I do what I like, I like what I do, I have traveled the world, I have visited close to 80 countries on all continents. I have friends everywhere. And this unprecedented situation due to the COVID-19, makes me feel anxious because I am not sure when my next flight will be, who knows it might be in the end of this year, or even the next year. And I used to make on average a dozen international or intercontinental flights each year, along with many trips within the USA. I miss touring, I miss being Horatio Nardini on the road with Stick Men or Soft Machine.

To wind up this conversation, I would like to mention a band that I am very proud of, and that’s Marbin, from Chicago. They are led by two Israeli-born musicians of immense talent: saxophonist Danny Markovitch, and guitarist Dani Rabin. ‘MAR’ stands for Markovitch, and ‘BIN’ for Rabin. I originally discovered them in 2010 thanks to a mutual friend and well-known Chicago area music journalist and writer. I have released three of their albums, and have promoted all the others since they went on their own.

Armed with a do-it-yourself approach and a can-do attitude, Marbin started touring extensively in 2011 under my encouragement and guidance. I became their biggest fan, helping bring their vibrant, original instrumental music to every part of the United States. The band opened for both Scott Henderson and Allan Holdsworth, quickly gaining a great reputation as a robust live band – gaining tens of thousands of devoted fans all over the world, and selling tens of thousands of albums, in the process. These young, ambitious crusaders book all of their gigs, often playing over 250 shows per year. They’re a remarkable band. Their live shows are full of energy and highly entertaining, as Dani Rabin also happens to be an enthralling storyteller!

Even in such a challenging age for the music industry, old fashioned hard work and consistency can still yield results.

And it’s good to end this on a high note.

#cirdecsongs

You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs)

My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.

Would you like to have your album reviewed? Contact me at cirdecsongs@gmail.com

3 Comments

  1. MoonJune Records offers an incredible selection of music recorded by a very high caliber of musicianship. Browse through the MoonJune catalog and you are sure to find several music recordings you will enjoy.
    The website is very easy to navigate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks to the amazing work of Leonardo and MoonJune Records, another music business level is possible, I mean, great music and musicians and also great business. MoonJune records rules and Leonardo is doing an amazing work here. Thanks Leo!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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