Sarasota, FL: The Jazz Club of Sarasota
presented its prestigious Satchmo Award to Rachel Domber and her late husband Mat, founders and operators of Clearwater-based Arbors Records
, on March 12 at a reception that was part of the pandemic-interrupted Sarasota Jazz Festival
. The presentation had been planned as an important part of the Jazz Club’s 40th
Anniversary Festival and was hastily rescheduled as musicians and audiences departed under an advisory from governmental officials.
Ed Linehan, president of the Jazz Club and managing director of the Sarasota Jazz Festival, said, “We are very pleased to honor the work of Rachel Domber and her late husband Matthew by presenting them with the Satchmo award, the Jazz Club’s highest recognition. This recognition commemorates the contributions of jazz great Louis Armstrong, nicknamed ‘Satchel Mouth’ or ‘Satchmo. We also thank The Harold and Evelyn R. Davis Memorial Foundation, which sponsors the award in memory of Jazz Clubfounder Hal Davis.
“The Jazz Club created the Satchmo award in 1987 to honor those who have made a unique and enduring contribution to the living history of jazz, our original art form. I can’t think of anyone who fits that definition better than the Dombers,” Linehan said. “Through their efforts, Arbors has produced hundreds of albums since 1989, representing many classic styles of Jazz. The Arbors catalog
reads like a Who’s Who of American jazz of the last half century, including recordings by our own Dick Hyman–an NEA Jazz Master–and Ken Peplowski.”
Mat Domber was a New York-based lawyer with real estate interests in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He was also a jazz fan, record collector and listener, beginning with his preteen visits to Nick’s in Greenwich Village. He and his wife Rachel founded Arbors Records as an act of generosity, creating a culture of support and kindness that continues to this day.
“We started in 1989 without thinking of establishing a record label, but only to try to give our friend Rick Fay something he could sell on the bandstand. It grew into a labor of love and we now have over 400 recordings in our catalog,” Rachel said. The impetus was their friendship with Rick Fay, an outstanding reedman, singer, and composer who had been in the music business for over 40 years, mostly as a performer at the Disney parks in California and Florida, but who had never recorded as a leader.
Arbors changed that with their first release and Fay’s first album, Rick Fay’s Hot Five: Live at Lone Pine
. Starting with Dixieland recordings by various Rick Fay groups, the highly regarded niche company now embraces traditional, contemporary, and classic jazz as well as the swing styles of the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and beyond. The label, which describes itself as “Your Home of Contemporary Jazz and Swing,” features nationally and internationally acclaimed jazz performers as well as rising stars.
Beyond making records, Arbors was also the originator and producer of the acclaimed March of Jazz weekend jazz parties in Clearwater, Florida, starting with Bob Haggart’s 80th
birthday in 1994 and continuing through 2012, when Mat died and Rachel needed some time to regroup.
Arbors is also a sponsor of the Sarasota Jazz Festival and the Suncoast Dixieland Jazz Classic in Clearwater Beach, Florida, as well as the Arbors Invitational Jazz Party, geared toward pianists, which began in 2002. In addition, Arbors president Rachel Domber was also president of the Statesmen of Jazz, an ensemble of legendary senior musicians who toured the world from 1998-2010 and recorded two Arbors CDs. In keeping with their generous nature, the Dombers never took reimbursements for their administrative, travel, or other costs. Instead, 100 percent of the proceeds went to the musicians and to nonprofit organizations that promote the continuation of jazz.
"I am very thrilled to have this award and I know Mat is so very happy too,” Rachel said, regarding the unique trophy designed by sculptor Frank Eliscu, who also designed the Heisman Memorial Football Trophy
. “It was a surprise—and a tremendous feeling—to look at the list of other Satchmo recipients and realize that Arbors Records has recorded and supported many of them. They include of course Ken [Peplowski] and Dick [Hyman], whose new Lerner and Loewe album Counterpoint
we’ve just released.” Among other Satchmo winners that Arbors has recorded as leaders (with Satchmo award dates in parentheses) are NEA Jazz Masters George Wein
(1987) and Milt Hinton
(1988); Bob Haggart
(1999); Jerry Jerome
(2002); Bucky Pizzarelli
(2003) and John Pizzarelli
(2003), Svend Asmussen
(2012), and Wycliffe Gordon
(2016). Those recorded as sidemen include Peter Appleyard
(2007), Jeff Hamilton
(2018), and the most recent winner, Houston Person
In keeping with its philosophy of supporting talent young and new, the latest Arbors recordings, released in 2018-2020, include two Lerner and Loewe projects: the previously mentioned Counterpoint
by Satchmo winners Dick Hyman (2001) and Ken Peplowski (2014), and Adrian Cunningham and His Friends Play the Tunes of Lerner and Loewe
. Other new releases are Professor Cunningham and His Old School Swing Disney;
James Suggs: You’re Going to Hear From Me;
Ken Peplowski and Diego Figueiredo; Amizade; Dave McKenna in Madison
; Warren Vache: Songs Our Fathers Taught Us
; and a new album, Everyone Wants to Rule the World,
due out this month, pairing the hot young trio La Lucha with jazz stars Ken Peplowski, Diego Figueiredo, Chuck Redd, last year’s Satchmo winner Houston Person, and others.
Arbors doesn’t restrict its generous support of jazz to recordings and festivals. As coronavirus-related government closings have put many musicians (and others) out of work, Rachel and Arbors Records have stepped up to the plate. On March 18 she wrote, “This weekend in New York City we are recording a large group of musicians so we can give them some income during this difficult time. The musicians committed to this venture are Ken Peplowski as leader, along with Houston Person, Russell Malone, Nicki Parrott, Phil Stewart, Peter Washington, and Ehud Asherie. I don't know if it will come off because of a possible New York City shutdown, but we will see.” Unfortunately the health situation in NYC canceled this plan, but Rachel is undaunted. In fact, under her sponsorship, guitarist Diego Figuereido is recording the last few original songs for his Arbors album Antartica
in his native Brazil, where recording studios are still open.
Looking back on Arbors’ three decades and its significant impact on the world of jazz, Rachel said, “It has all been worth it. And I’m very proud to receive the Satchmo Award. It gives me the energy and inspiration to keep going on.”
For further information about Arbors Records, visit https://arborsrecords.com/, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 727.252.0123, (727 )866-3042, or 1.800.299.1930.
The Jazz Club of Sarasota, founded in 1980, is dedicated to preserving, promoting and presenting jazz, America’s original musical art form. The Club has provided over 50 jazz-related events each year for over 40 years. Chief among them is the highly respected Sarasota Jazz Festival, presented every March. In addition to producing numerous jazz events, over the years the Club has granted over $250,000 to aspiring young jazz musicians. To learn more, visit www.jazzclubsarasota.org,email email@example.com, or phone 941.366.1552 (W-F, 9-5).