Label Code: LC 5417 / LC 05417
According to Feigin, his label is producing 'highly original, innovative, improvisation-based new music that refuses to be submitted to the market forces, that goes against the grain of current wisdoms; music that asks questions, provokes debate, generates ideas.' While Leo Records has been working with some artists for many decades, all material is released on single-album basis, without ongoing record deals and any contractual obligations. Praised by the critics, and described in The Penguin Guide to Jazz as "one of the most significant independent labels of recent times," Feigin's Leo Records became a significant pillar in the world of radical/innovative music, on par with John Zorn's Tzadik and Martin Davidson's Emanem.
With over 700 releases in the catalog, Leo Records has published numerous studio and concert recordings, both archival and modern, by Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Anthony Braxton, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, John Wolf Brennan, Sun Ra, Eugene Chadbourne, Evan Parker, William Parker, Marilyn Crispell, Joëlle Léandre, Joe and Mat Maneri, Simon Nabatov, Phil Minton and Roger Turner, Sainkho Namtchylak, Lauren Newton, Ned Rothenberg, Tibor Szemző, Cecil Taylor, Reggie Workman, and many other prominent musicians and composers from all over the world.
In the early eighties, Leo Records played a key role in establishing Ganelin Trio's international career. Leonid Feigin worked as a Russian translator and radio broadcaster for BBC in London since 1974, and became very interested in British new jazz. At the same time, Feigin's USSR friends wrote about a new amazing trio by Vyacheslav Ganelin, Vladimir Chekasin, and Vladimir Tarasov from Lithuania, and even managed to send him a few unreleased tapes. In one of his interviews, Leonin Feigin recalled playing the cassette to Manfred Eicher and Steve Lake (2). After listening to it carefully, ECM Records label boss shook his head in disbelief: piano, double bass, basset horn, guitar, flute, saxophone, drums, and various percussions – how could a trio possibly play all these instruments in one set?!
Two years later, after Leo Records already released six LPs, including two albums by Ganelin / Tarasov / Chekasin, Feigin received a letter from Sergey Kuryokhin, seeking help to release his solo piano compositions. Kuryokhin eventually organized a delivery of the reel-to-reel tape to London, leaving a final track selection to Feigin, but insisting on their titles – all clearly in reference to Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. In 1981, The Ways Of Freedom LP was released with a note on the back cover to protect Sergey from any potential complaints by Soviet officials: 'Sergey Kuryokhin does not bear any responsibility for publishing this tape. Leo Records is grateful to all those people who had the courage to preserve and deliver the tape.' On the CD reissue twenty years later, liner notes were updated to a more explicit version, without a faux 'no responsibility' disclaimer: 'Leo Records is grateful to all those people who had the courage to smuggle out the tape from behind the Iron Curtain.'
In addition to the main CD LR 0xx catalog, Leo Records has three sub-labels. Leo Lab, active from 1994 to 2001, had produced over seventy LEO LAB CD 0xx releases by a younger generation of aspiring improvisers and musicians. To commemorate the label's 20th anniversary and the new millennium, as well as to remind the audience that 'so called New Jazz, Free Jazz, or New Music is at least forty years old,' a Golden Years Of New Jazz sub-label was launched in 1999. Packaged in cardboard digipaks with embossed golden logo, CD GY 0xx series presented a few historically significant concerts and studio albums, long out-of-print and previously unavailable on compact discs, including a catalog of the defunct Greek label Praxis (2), licensed by Leo Feigin. In 2003, Feigin co-founded feetfirst records with Matthew Snell. FeetFirst only produced five albums, with ffr 500x catalog number.
Leo Records released several box-sets in the lieu of documenting and presenting practically uncharted post-Soviet new jazz territories to the international audience: 8xCD Document - New Music From Russia - The 80's (1989) and 4xCD Conspiracy - Soviet Jazz Festival Zürich 1989, both limited to 1000 copies, and Kuryokhin's 7xCD Absolutely Great!. In 2001, as part of the 'Golden Years' series, the label issued the Golden Years Of The Soviet New Jazz in four 4xCD volumes, each limited to 750 copies. In 2005, Leo Records also released, in joint production with Long Arms Records, Vladimir Tarasov's Atto – a massive 11xCD+DVD collection of 1984-2004 studio and live recordings.
For the label's 30th anniversary, Leo Feigin started a free jazz festival in Russia. In September 2014, a third Leo Records Festival took place, with concerts in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, and Saratov. A few international participants included pianist Simon Nabatov, saxophonists Frank Gratkowski and Gebhard Ullmann, and trombonist Yannick Barman.