Founded in 1971 by jazz trumpeter Charles Tolliver and pianist Stanley Cowell, STRAT-EAST took inspiration from the Detroit’s music-led collective STRATA; record label born prior by former Blue Note artist Kenny Cox in the late 1960s.
STRATA-EAST became a vital platform for the independent jazz movement that emerged from civil rights movement in the 1970s and released over 50 albums, all unique and of artistic excellence. However the independent musician-owned label may not have survived if it wasn’t for the success of Gil Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson ‘Winter In America’ featuring hit single ‘The Bottle’, enabling the label pay off debts and continue to function, with it’s contracts weighted in favor of the artists.
Presentation and quality was a central part of the creative vision and the recordings were pressed in limited numbers which added to their cult status. The label’s logo, designed by Ted Plair also set the tone for the graphic style using mostly black and white imagery.
The label’s releases are now hailed as prime examples of Post-bop, Avant-garde, Spiritual Jazz, and Afro Jazz.
A fun fact: Spike Lee’s father, Bill Lee was involved in numerous releases as was Clifford Jordan.
As featured on the back cover of Glass Bead Games by Clifford Jordan… “In all beginnings… a mystical, magical force, What course, what destiny… determined in time.”
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