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 2019. Founder Gerry Teekens (1935-2019), a linguistics professor by day and a semi-professional drummer by night, was a connoisseur of groove -- he operated by the motto, “If you have a great band, but not a great drummer, forget it.”
Teekens knew talent and was not afraid to follow his instincts. Operating on a budget defined by his teacher’s salary and subsequent pension, 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. As the 1980s progressed, he began to make regular trips to New York to document the best and brightest of several generations of the Big Apple’s best-and-brightest young jazz musicians.
That’s why the Criss Cross catalog includes the debut releases by such present-day jazz icons as Benny Green, Bill Charlap, Chris Potter, Mark Turner, Brian Lynch, Peter Bernstein, Keyon Harrold, Orrin Evans, Steve Wilson. and Eric Alexander. There are multiple albums by postbop masters like Donny McCaslin, David Binney, Alex Sipiagin, Edward Simon, Adam Rogers, and Sullivan Fortner; and consequential dates by Jazz at Lincoln Center alumni like Herlin Riley, Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines and Rodney Whitaker. To propel the flow, Teekens assembled exemplary rhythm sections with young masters like pianists Brad Mehldau and Mulgrew Miller; bassists Christian McBride and Peter Washington; and drummers Jeff Watts, Brian Blade, Lewis Nash, and Kenny Washington. And that’s just a short-list.
In short, it’s a remarkable catalog, synonymous with excellence, as closely tuned into the zeitgeist of its era as Blue Note Records -- under the guidance of another independent proprietor, Alfred Lion, himself a jazz lover from central Europe -- was to elite jazz streams of expression between 1947 and 1969. Criss Cross will remain a consequential voice as the 2020s proceed -- Teekens' family intends to sustain the label and keep the legacy alive.
This page contains some pointers into the 40-year history of Criss Cross Jazz.
With great regret we report that mr. Gerry Teekens, founder and head of Criss Cross Jazz, died on October 31st 2019 at the age of 83.
The Dutch jazzmagazine JazzNu published an interview with Gerry Teekens about Criss Cross in March 1992. The interview was conducted by Ton Ouwehand.