BYG was conceived as a label. The operation’s first principals were Fernand Boruso, Jean-Luc Young and Jean Georgakarakos. The trio wanted to create a label focused on jazz, psychedelic, rock and other progressive music.
For the BYG acronym, they combined their three initials of their last names. They chose as logo the small Buddha which Boruso kept on his desk as a talisman.
Essentially the partnership was set up to cultivate a big network of national record stores to feed the rapidly expanding student population in France. In the wake of May 68 revolt, Borusso left the operation to focus on his own projects. The remaining two members pooled their resources in record industry attempting to set up a licensing label and brave the turbulent times.
Young an Karakos built up a chain of record stores based in university towns throughout France. They had licensed the Savoy Jazz catalogue and BYG Records made their debuts with a program of reissues. The label becoming also heavly involved in the worldwide free jazz explosion through Claude Delcloo’s meeting who was the ‘Actuel’ editor, a french avant garde & culturel jazz magazine, keen on the new possibilities offered by free jazz. Delcoo was also drummer for The Full Moon Ensemble.
BYG offices - Paris, 1969
America. This was the year the dam broke. The streets ran red and nixon was king, and more than a few people decided to leave the u.s. voluntary- before they were forced to leave the earth at gunpoint.
African american musicians wanted to desert the burning cities of their youth by any means necessary. Thus, saxophonist Archie Sheep and a troupe of like-minded musicians bolted when they heard about a Pan-African music festival in Algiers occurring in July 1969. This festival was designed to reacquaint the children of the african diaspora with the o-zone from which their origin-music gushed. By most accounts, the cultural transaction was successful.
Once the festival over, the knot of avant garde musicians who had played (such as Clifford Thornton, Grachan Moncur III, Sunny Murray, Dave Burrell, Alan Silva et al.) was invited to Paris by Actuel, along with BYG Records, who had recently acquired the magazine. Jacques Bisceglia, photographer for Actuel during the festival, was commissioned to bring back all the prodigy musicians. Claude Delcloo started functioning in an A&R capacity for BYG and his relationship and first-hand contact with American free-jazz musicians provided to Georgakarakos and Young a convenient short-cut to recorded output from these mythical characters.
Free Jazz, then... But free of what?
Free jazz transcended the rules of rhetoric which had slowly dampened the playing of those who claimed improvisation as a language, gave new horizons to jazz. A generic term for several forms of expression, point of view, which sometimes contradict themselves. Collective improvisations, redefinition of the links between harmony, melody, rhythm, introspective research of the sound itself, free jazz encapsulates several different aesthetics. Free jazz was a declaration of rights for musicians to live the present intensively, particularly in the 60’s, a decade subject to many changes. 'New’ was the word, associated to a search for more freedom.
Free jazz improvisation
BYG invited some musicians to Paris for recording sessions in the prestigious Davout studios. Don Cherry, Archie Sheep, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Anthony Braxton, amongst many others. A frenetic marathon recording sessions ensued, at which leaders and sidemen flowed seamlessly between an unending stream of gorgeously powerful music. The influx of players from the Pan African festival at the end of July heated the scene up even more. In August, Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille, fresh from gigs at the foundation Maeght with Cecil Taylor, got involved. Those who could stay around Paris after the sessions has been finished, playing gigs and awaiting the promised Actuel festival, organised by BYG and scheduled for October.