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Herb Sundays 55: Oskar Mann
The Book Works founder and jazz devotee shares a tight mix of sentimental lifters.
Oskar Mann on his playlist:
As a father of a 11-month-old, my relationship to time has been elastic…at best. With that being said, I’m never quite sure what day it is, and my ‘sonic memory’ is a bit all over the place these days. This selection seems to dance around being sentimental. I’m very drawn to demonstrations of technical excellence paired with melodic / emotional vulnerability. To me, I guess that’s the ultimate goal. There are moments of restraint heard here - and moments of complete controlled freedom, dare I say flirting with the divine. I can’t even think about certain recordings without getting goose bumps. Very apropos, the selection ends with Miles Davis telling a crowd in Austria (who had just witnessed the gates of heaven being opened by Kenny Garrett’s extended solo) say “..that wasn’t nothin’ man, I do that every night.”
Born in Melbourne, lifelong music student Oskar Mann is a musician, engineer, DJ, and radio host who has worked with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins and Amy Winehouse. Under his longtime mentor, Lenny Pickett, the musical director of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Oskar worked on SNL from 2002 to 2004. After graduating from the Jazz & Contemporary Music program at the New School University in 2005, he was taken under the wing of Mark Ronson and was heavily involved with Ronson’s Allido Records both in and out of the studio then also helping with the reissue project at Wax Poetics Magazine. From 2007 to 2014 Oskar was the host and DJ of the weekly ‘Never Not Working’ radio program on East Village Radio and since then, a bi-weekly radio show at The Lot Radio and founding I Should Care Records and Book Works.
Book Works, a clothing brand and culture platform, was founded in 2017 in NYC Much like the the jazz repertoire which is built upon the chord changes of ‘standards’, Book Works investigates and builds off both musical and visual elements. In 2018 they released two music projects, The Book Works Trio EP (BW001) and J. Albert’s ‘No Hay Alegria Sin El Campo’ (BW002). The brand has since collaborated with Adidas, Cafe Nyleta, Procell, C’H’C’M’, Hardbody, Min-Nano, Brain Dead, Intramural, and more. Book Works is currently sold in select retailers worldwide (including our beloved Today Clothing in Ann Arbor who has the new collection) and has been featured in Vogue Italia and Popeye Magazine Japan.
I kept seeing Book Works in the late ‘10s and was super intrigued by its presentation and music lineage, which was similar to Ghostly in some ways in this approach. What moved me to reach out was their collaboration shoe with Adidas which featured marketing including some great wheatpaste posters featuring legendary jazz bassist, Ron Carter (I played stand-up bass poorly in middle school and never looked back to pick up an instrument apart from DJing/production, but still love listening to the sound). This reverence for the past as well as a easy sense of humor informs all of Book Works’ projects and it’s great to see the brand growing, even launching a capsule and pop up at the New York location of Japan’s beloved Nepenthes which is up now.
I finally reached out on DM to Oskar and met up for coffee and a visit to Devon Ojas’ installation at Lisson Gallery in Chelsea this summer. We caught up about being new dads, putting out music, and brands. I liked this quote of his I read in passing and rings true to how I feel about my work: “I like to think of it as a band (take the r out of brand and you've got a band). There are a lot of amazing people who 'play' in this band - and I feel incredibly lucky to learn and grow with them.”
With clothing or any product really, its all about how you make something simple stand out to the right people. Streetwear, or whatever you want to call it, trades on references. Mann’s love of jazz informs the brand and it ties everything together. You can enjoy it at face value or you can dig deeper, which is what this series is about. His mix carries this passion through and is a great way to kick off Fall.
RIP Pharaoh Sanders.
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