Impulse Records is the legendary label that proudly delivered the “new thing” in jazz in the 1960s: avant-garde records from the likes of John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders. It also helped jazz cross over to a larger audience; quite a few flower children bought Impulse albums.
But over time, the new thing got old. Impulse went dormant for nearly a decade. When it was time for the label to come out of hibernation in 1986, New Orleans pianist Henry Butler sounded the wake-up call. In the 1990’s Impulse went on hiatus a second time, and now, once again, Henry Butler has been called upon to help reboot the label.
Viper’s Drag, out this month, is Butler’s collaboration with arranger and trumpeter Steven Bernstein. The two joined NPR’s Arun Rath to talk about the new record, and the importance of the Impulse name to jazz history. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read their edited conversation below.