Jerry Teekens Jr, son of Gerry Teekens who is the founder of Criss Cross Jazz is current manager of the label. When Gerry Teekens died in 2019 at the age of 84, he left behind an independent record label that was appreciated by the entire jazz world.
Based in the provincial city of Enschede, in the eastern Netherlands, Criss Cross Records captured the aesthetic essence of cutting-edge hardcore New York jazz more consistently than any other label on 400+ albums recorded between 1981 and 2022.
Teekens, who was very successful to recognize the talent and was not afraid to follow his instincts, started the operation on a budget by his teacher’s salary and he began by recording such masters as Chet Baker, Jimmy Raney, Johnny Coles, Warne Marsh, Clifford Jordan and Slide Hampton when they were on European tours. These albums are considered among the best ones of the aforementioned musicians.
Starting from the late 80s, Gerry Teekens began to make regular trips to New York and handpicked the best and brightest musicians of the city and put them into high-tech studio environment to be recorded by esteemed engineers.
These trips resulted the opportunity for yet-unrecorded young lions to have a debut release. The list of the artist who has debut from Criss Cross Jazz is impressive: Benny Green, Bill Charlap, Chris Potter, Mark Turner, Brian Lynch, Peter Bernstein, Keyon Harrold, Orrin Evans, Steve Wilson and Eric Alexander.
In the interest of brevity, Criss Cross Jazz’ a remarkable catalog, synonymous with excellence, is as closely tuned into the zeitgeist of its era as Blue Note Records.
As being truly admirers of the label, we wanted to have a short interview with Jerry Teekens Jr about yesterday, today and the future of Criss Cross Jazz.
Thanks to Jerry for such a clear and frank answers. We hope that this interview will portray beloved label’s recent situation and future plans to its followers and jazz lovers.
DBN: Let us start from the beginning. As being the son of a legendary jazz impresario, how was your childhood and youth in terms of musical environment?
Jerry Teekens: Being a child I grew up in an environment that fully was dedicated to jazz music. My father collected vinyl albums and furthermore he did organize tours with well known jazz musicians. Famous musicians stayed at our home so I grew up with musicians like Chet Baker, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Jimmy Raney who stayed with us in our home for weeks. At the time my father started Criss Cross Jazz as a hobby project I was still at home and I always helped him with organisimng the orders.
DBN: Would you please tell us who is Jerry Teekens beside being heir of Criss Cross?
Jerry Teekens is Gerry Teekens only child, at this moment I am 55 and besides Criss Cross Jazz i run my own real estate consultancy business. I do manage Criss Cross Jazz together with my two grown up daughters (27 and 30 yeras of age).
I am not incrowd in the jazz business because of the fact I studied economics and since 20 years run my own business. I promised my father shortly before he died that I would continue Criss Cross Jazz to keep his legacy alive.
For me the most important issue is to maintain the signature and to keep the typical Cross Cross sound alive.
DBN: How have you been involved in Criss Cross business? Have you been serious participant to Criss Cross during Gerry’s management in his lifetime?
I have not been active in Criss Cross during my fathers management of Criss Cross Jazz. Criss Cross Jazz was my father’s work of life and I knew the label is well appreciated in the Jazz world. I promised my father to continue the label and more important to continue the signature of the label. I know how to manage a company because I have been a business man myself the past 20 years.
While continuing the label we do work with the same team of recording engineer, recording studio, etc and together with this team as well as the discussions I have with some of the musicians my father trusted we do choose which new releases we would like to record. For me the most important issue is to maintain the signature and to keep the typical Cross Cross sound alive. I think we did manage to do that in the last 5 new releases we recorded and released already.
DBN: I lost my father too just 3 weeks before Gerry’s passing. I remember that I read his obituary while I was weeping to my father’s passing. I thought that this was the end of an era and I wished that this would have been the beginning of a new era. I know that there is no emotional preperation for a father’s loss but have you been prepared in terms of Criss Cross’ future?
As already mentioned I did promise my father only shortly before he died that I would continue the label, so we had not that much of preparation. My father carefully built up the Criss Cross catalog and my father was very well known amongst musicians so for me it is quite easy to get in touch with the musicians and all of them really do like to release music on the Criss Cross label.
DBN: Are (or were) you scared of the responsibility of carrying Gerry’s legacy?
I am an entrepreneur and I was not scared of the responsibility at all. Criss Cross is a one of a kind label and I do not have to explain who or what we are, that eases up the business for us.
DBN: A retrospective look tells me that Criss Cross plays in mainstream jazz although there were some exceptions. How do you project the future of Criss Cross with respect to sub-genres of jazz? Shall we see any CC production of -let’s say- fully free improvised music?
Criss Cross is a label with a specific signature and sound. I don’t think we will release fully imporvised music and I also do not think we will release vocal albums.
DBN: Any plan to sign non-USA musicians to CC catalog? Or continue in same breath with young or established US musicians?
Criss Cross did sign non-US musicians in the past, however very few. Most of the top cats do live in the US and we will continue to record them in the same breath with young or established US musicians.
DBN: In the beginning of the label, early 80s, Criss Cross pressed the very first albums of the catalogue in vinyls. How do you consider vinyl movement and rise-up? I understand that Criss Cross is partnering with Elemental Music. Please tell us about this partnership.
We are certainly planning to re-release of albums on vinyl. The market screams for vinyl and the demand is growing immense.
We are certainly planning to re-release of albums on vinyl. The market screams for vinyl and the demand is growing immense. As a first step we licensed 5 Criss Cross titles to be re released by specialist Elemental. The first two albums are already available and 3 more to come shortly. Criss Cross Jazz will also release and re-release albums out of the catalog on vinyl.
DBN: How do you see the future of music platforms like Spotify and their effects to the labels such as Criss Cross and music’s now and future?
Music platforms such as Spotify and other platforms are very important. However physical sales will decrease due to the streaming and downloads, I do think that physical sales will increase also because of the simple fact that vinyl is growing. The physical as well as digital sales did increase for Criss Cross the past few years so we really do think the interest for labels such as Criss Cross Jazz wil last forever.
DBN: How do you read the future of jazz?
Jazz is a niche market and will stay a niche market. Criss Cross Jazz is a niche player so it fits perfect in this niche market. The demand for music and also the demand for jazz music will last. Young musicians get inspired by well known musicians of whom many recorded for Criss Cross and also in the future this music will be important and listened to.
Although it is a relatively small market I am convinced that the market share will stay and with a solid investment in the use of social media and moe specific centered marketing Jazz will stay and last forever.
DBN: Do you think that music audience needs Criss Cross Jazz Festival?
That is an interesting question. I can imagine that Criss Cross with its catalog with musicians can organize a Criss Cross Jazz Festival but the question then is where to settle such a festival. I do believe more in a kind of ongoing Criss Cross All Stars Jazz Band touring the world.
DBN: Thank you Jerry. It was great pleasure to talk to you.