International Anthem: A Beacon of Contemporary Jazz and Global Musical Influence

carlo de marchis
9 min readMay 16, 2023

International Anthem is possibly the record label I follow the most, an almost-obsession that started with the first records I discovered by Makaya McCraven. I own almost all what they have released, not because I have collector mindset, but because I adopted the method to buy all records released by certain labels or artists, as a way to trust and give credit to their taste and research.

So this article is kind of a love letter to the label and those artists.

From its humble beginnings in the Windy City of Chicago, International Anthem has grown to become a vibrant hub of musical creativity and innovation. Renowned for its eclectic roster of artists and an unwavering commitment to experimentalism, the record label has significantly impacted the global music scene, especially in the realm of contemporary jazz.

The Birth of International Anthem

International Anthem (IA) was born out of the creative minds of Scott McNiece and David Allen in 2014. They launched the label with the vision to advocate for progressive music, particularly within the spheres of jazz and improvised music. The founders’ background in food and beverage and their shared passion for music set the foundation for a label that was as diverse as it was daring.

The Roster: A Diverse Array of Musical Talent

From the inception of the label, the IA roster boasted a wide array of talent. The first artist to release an album under the label was Rob Mazurek, a cornetist, composer, and a key figure in the Chicago jazz scene. His album Alternate Moon Cycles was a testament to the label’s dedication to producing music that challenged boundaries and expectations.

Other artists who have since joined the IA family include Makaya McCraven, a beat scientist and a drummer whose innovative approach to music combines elements of jazz, hip-hop, and electronica. His album In The Moment was a pioneering release that showcased the power of improvisation and real-time creation.

One of the pivotal artists in the label’s lineup is Jeff Parker, a multi-instrumentalist and a stalwart of the Chicago jazz and experimental music scene. His works, including the critically acclaimed album The New Breed, further cemented IA’s status as a formidable force in the global music landscape.

Resavoir, led by Will Miller, has also released their eponymous debut album on IA, showcasing a seamless blend of jazz and synth-pop influences. Angel Bat Dawid, a clarinetist and composer, has been an essential voice in the label’s roster, her album The Oracle highlighting the spiritual and political dimensions of jazz.

The Sound: Beyond Genres and Boundaries

The sound of International Anthem transcends genre definitions. While jazz is at the core of its offerings, the label is renowned for its fusion of various musical styles. From the experimental electronica elements in Makaya McCraven’s works to the soulful notes in Angel Bat Dawid’s compositions, IA embraces a global, inclusive sound.

The label is also recognized for its live recordings, often capturing the raw energy and spontaneity of performances. This practice has resulted in albums that are vibrant, dynamic, and organic, encapsulating the essence of the artists and their craft.

The Cultural Influence: Shaping the Music Scene

IA’s impact extends beyond the confines of the music industry. The label has actively participated in and shaped the cultural scene of Chicago and beyond. By hosting numerous performances and events, IA has fostered a vibrant community of musicians and fans.

Moreover, the label has played a pivotal role in promoting and preserving the legacy of Chicago’s rich jazz history. Through their releases, IA artists have paid homage to the city’s musical past while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of what is possible in contemporary music.

The Global Impact: A Worldwide Influence

International Anthem’s influence is felt worldwide. The label’s releases have been recognized globally, garnering critical acclaim and winning numerous awards. In doing so, IA has put Chicago’s contemporary jazz scene on the global map, demonstrating the city’s continued relevance as a musical powerhouse.

In conclusion, International Anthem is not just a record label — it’s a beacon of creativity, a conduit for musical experimentation, and a testament to the transformative power of music. The label continues to challenge conventional norms, breaking barriers and pushing the boundaries of what is musically possible. International Anthem’s dedication to unearthing and promoting unique talent has led to a richly diverse roster that continues to redefine contemporary jazz.

With an unparalleled commitment to promoting a global and inclusive sound, International Anthem is shaping the future of music. Its influence extends from the bustling streets of Chicago to the farthest corners of the globe, demonstrating the universal language of music and its ability to connect people across cultures and continents.

Through their innovative approach, International Anthem has cemented itself as a driving force in the global music scene. With every release, the label continues to inspire and challenge, leaving an indelible mark on the world of music. It is not just a record label, but a vibrant community, a cultural influencer, and a global ambassador for the ever-evolving sound of contemporary jazz. As the label continues to grow and evolve, there is no doubt that its impact will continue to resonate, shaping the soundscape of music for years to come.

Why I like it so much

International Anthem is a record label that consistently delivers music that’s innovative and fresh. They house artists that push boundaries, blending genres and styles in a way that consistently surprises and delights me. Whether it’s Makaya McCraven’s unique take on jazz or the experimental work of Ben LaMar Gay, each record brings something new to the table.

Another aspect that I appreciate is the label’s commitment to vinyl releases. Each record is treated as an individual work of art — from the music to the packaging. The label clearly values the physical medium as much as I do.

What’s special about collecting International Anthem’s records is the sense of being part of a community. This isn’t just about owning music; it’s about supporting a label that encourages its artists to take risks and respects its audience enough to deliver quality with every release.

As I’ve built my collection of International Anthem vinyl over the years, I’ve come to see each record as more than just a piece of music. They’re reminders of the power of creativity and the joy of discovery. That’s why I’ve grown so attached to this label and why I’ll continue to look forward to their future releases.

Record Covers

International Anthem albums are indeed unique for many reasons, and one of them is the incorporation of a special sentence or phrase on each cover. This serves as an additional layer of connection between the artist and the listener. These sentences, sometimes cryptic, other times direct, provide a form of dialogue, an invitation to dive deeper into the music and the artist’s world. They act as keys to unlock the narrative or the concept that the artist is trying to convey.

The phrases can range from a simple line that encapsulates the theme of the album, a poetic verse, or an intriguing question. They can be as direct as a statement about the album’s content, or they can be more elusive and abstract, prompting listeners to ponder and interpret their own meanings.

These cover phrases not only add to the aesthetic appeal of the album artwork but also enhance the vinyl experience. As you hold the record, read the phrase, and then listen to the music, it adds a multi-sensory depth to the act of appreciating the art. It is these subtle details and thoughtfulness that make owning International Anthem records on vinyl an engaging and personal experience.

Examples:

“Potent & pliant, limber low end lumber thrums power a progressive post-modern quartet set with pillars planted deep in jazz diaspora.”

“Floral array of percussive psychedelic funk blossoms foraged from an abundant garden of communal instrumentals”

Artists

List of artists that released with the label

  1. Alabaster DePlume: A Manchester-born saxophonist, composer, and spoken word artist whose work incorporates elements of avant-garde jazz and folk.
  2. Asher Gamedze: South African drummer and composer whose music is deeply rooted in the jazz tradition and the struggle for social justice.
  3. Angel Bat Dawid: Chicago-based clarinetist, composer, and singer, known for her spiritual and improvisational style in the modern jazz scene.
  4. Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra: A large ensemble project led by Rob Mazurek, a cornetist, composer, and electronic music artist known for his incorporation of visual and multimedia elements.
  5. Photay with Carlos Niño: A collaboration between electronic music producer Photay and percussionist Carlos Niño, known for their innovative and boundary-pushing soundscapes.
  6. Ben LaMar Gay: A Chicago-based cornetist and composer whose work spans jazz, blues, and experimental music.
  7. Dezron Douglas: An American jazz bassist, known for his work as a session musician and his leadership of the Dezron Douglas Trio.
  8. Tom Skinner: A London-based drummer, producer and composer known for his innovative approach to electronic and jazz music.
  9. Makaya McCraven: A Chicago-based drummer and producer whose work fuses elements of jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music.
  10. Charles Stepney: An influential arranger, producer, and songwriter known for his work in soul, jazz, and R&B music.
  11. Carlos Niño & Friends: A collective led by Carlos Niño, a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and radio host known for his eclectic musical style.
  12. Anteloper: An experimental electronic duo comprised of trumpeter Jaimie Branch and drummer Jason Nazary.
  13. Daniel Villarreal: A drummer and composer known for his work in the free jazz and experimental music scenes.
  14. Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer: A duo known for their experimental approach to electronic and ambient music.
  15. Jeff Parker: An American guitarist, composer, and member of the post-rock group Tortoise, known for his work in jazz and experimental music.
  16. Jamire Williams: An American drummer who has worked with a variety of artists in the jazz, R&B, and hip-hop scenes.
  17. Irreversible Entanglements: A liberation-oriented free jazz collective formed in early 2015 by saxophonist Keir Neuringer, poet Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother) and bassist Luke Stewart.
  18. Dos Santos: A Chicago-based band known for their innovative fusion of Latin American and North American music.
  19. jaimie branch: A New York-based trumpeter known for her work in the avant-garde and free jazz scenes.
  20. Damon Locks: A Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist, known for his work as a visual artist, sound artist, and musician.
  21. Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger: A collaborative duo consisting of bassist Dezron Douglas and harpist Brandee Younger.
  22. Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brotherhood: A collaborative project led by Angel Bat Dawid, exploring themes of spirituality and social justice through improvisational jazz.
  23. Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes: A collaboration between trumpeter Aquiles Navarro and drummer Tcheser Holmes, their music blends elements of free jazz with Latin American influences.
  24. Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Another collaborative project from Carlos Niño, this time with multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, known for their explorations of orchestral jazz and experimental music.
  25. Junius Paul: A Chicago-based jazz bassist and composer, known for his work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and other leading figures in contemporary jazz.
  26. Emma-Jean Thackray: An award-winning British composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, bandleader and DJ, specializing in jazz.
  27. Resavoir: A Chicago-based ensemble led by producer and composer Will Miller, known for their fusion of jazz, electronic, and indie music.
  28. Freddie Douggie: A collaborative project between Ben LaMar Gay and drummer JayVe Montgomery, known for their improvisational and experimental music.
  29. Ben LaMar Gay: A cornetist and composer based in Chicago, known for his work in jazz and experimental music.
  30. KrushLove: A beat maker and producer from the South Side of Chicago, known for his diverse influences and innovative approach to hip-hop production.
  31. John McCowen: An experimental musician known for his work with the contrabass clarinet, incorporating extended techniques and electronic manipulation.
  32. Hear In Now: A collaborative trio featuring cellist Tomeka Reid, violinist Mazz Swift, and bassist Silvia Bolognesi.
  33. Bottle Tree: A collaborative project featuring multi-instrumentalist Ben Lamar Gay, drummer Tommaso Moretti, and vocalist A.M. Frison.
  34. Rob Mazurek & Emmett Kelly: A collaboration between experimental jazz cornetist Rob Mazurek and guitarist Emmett Kelly.
  35. Bambi Kino Duo: A collaboration between vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and drummer Charles Rumback, known for their experimental jazz compositions
  36. Ahleuchatistas: An American instrumental rock trio from Asheville, North Carolina.
  37. Nick Mazzarella Trio: A free jazz trio led by alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella.
  38. Rob Jacobs: An experimental musician from Chicago, known for his unique blend of pop, folk, and electronic music.

Full updated released records:

The team

  • David Allen Co-founder, Recording Engineer
  • Scottie McNiece Co-founder, Artists & Repertoire
  • Dave Vettraino Recording Engineer, Warehouse Manager
  • Ayana Contreras Podcast
  • David Brown Retail Marketing
  • Alejandro Ayala Marketing & Communications, Events
  • Jocelyn Brown Licensing & Publishing
  • Lisa Giordano Booking
  • Itzi Marques Digital Marketing

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carlo de marchis

@CDM / Advisor. 35 years in sports & media tech. Electronic Label and Musician (NEOM Records). Vinyl selector as Carlo's Turntables.