Interview with:

Greg Pasenko

Blujazz Productions

Tell us about Blujazz Productions and what made you decide to start it.

Hi! Blujazz was a business and passion that was born and raised out of basic needs. I had been on the road for many years living in KC, LA, San Francisco, Denver, and now Chicago, playing guitar, singing, and running all kinds of bands in different genres. Many were very successful, but for many of us the “funded recording contract” eluded us. My wife, four times DB Critics Poll Rising Star category placer, and I decided to do some serious recording of her music. We began the shopping trip to labels and were coming up dry. This is when “major” labels were dropping acts, not funding many, and basically becoming banks. We had a wonderful entertainment lawyer in Chicago, Linda Mensch, who advised us to just start our own label and build it up till the money labels (banks) took notice and would possibly invest. Being on limited funds our distributor at that time taught me how to do radio promo starting with a Mike Melvoin/Charlie Haden record. This led me to their LA publicist, the legendary Peter Levinson, who was doing publicity. Peter and I partnered on several artist releases and I learned a lot about publicity. All of sudden I was doing both for my wife, we had a distributor; we created a business name Blujazz. Then lots of other cats were asking how we did all of this and would I help them, which I did, giving away a lot of data and feeling good about it.

We really didn’t have a lot of money, and we couldn’t and didn’t want to put capital into other artists, particularly in a niche market, and after some bad experiences ourselves we didn’t want to tie up artists “intellectual property”. I came up with the idea that we would just create a façade of a label that could do all of the things that most money labels did but not license or “tie up” artists for many years. We would charge enough to make it worthwhile for us to work all aspects of the CD to radio, press, distribution, help with art creation, manufacturing, advertising coops, and on a selective basis book gigs. We have evolved a lot, made a lot of mistakes, but have in the process developed an international following. We (we being my wife, myself, and some interns) have worked over several hundred projects with many artists coming back many times. We are still evolving as the digital world continually roars in. We have been lucky enough to work with some great artists, charted my CDs on the radio charts, many reviews and articles in the major trades, and booked some great venues.

What would you say makes Blujazz unique and what are you most proud of accomplishing with the company?

We are unique because we do not bind or control artists. We have a buffet of services that can be done with a respected brand Blujazz or just help the artists own brand. We also help book artists and have a pretty incredible international database/network.

Tell us a bit about the career path that led to where you are now.

Well, we probably covered in the questions above, but I would have to say traveling and gigging worldwide meeting so many artists and industry professionals who have taught me so much. I actually worked in LA at Blue Note Records when they were with United Artists in LA in my 20’s.

What job do you think you would you be doing if you weren’t running Blujazz?

Playing guitar and singing, my first love and it still is.

What band/artist outside the realm of jazz music would people be surprised to hear you love?

In my 20’s, I was fortunate enough to have a group that opened for Rush; Blue Oyster Cult, James Gang, Mountain, Canned Heat, and many more. I love all kinds of guitar music.

What destination would you most like to visit and why?

Been a lot of places. Even owned part of a label in Paris, France but would have to say Rio de Janeiro, I love the music.

You just won a million dollars. What are you going to do with it?

Just what I am doing now but help other artists more, open a venue (we had Club Blujazz for a while), travel, etc.

What is/are your current favorite TV obsession(s)? What is the best movie you’ve seen so far this year?

Mysteries. After everyone has gone to bed I am either working on my computer or playing guitar with a good mystery running. I like Norwegian mysteries.

When friends/family come to Chicago, what is your favorite restaurant you take them to?

That’s tough. So many.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What five well known people (dead or alive) would you like to have there with you?

Wes Montgomery, Stevie Ray, Jimmy Hendrix (one of lucky ones that got to see him play), Monte Montgomery, Bobby McFerrin (played in a duo with him), Tuck and Patty.