Born in Jajce in 1962 when Bosnia & Herzegovina was still a part of Yugoslavia, from an early age Leonardo yearned to discover the unknown lands on the “other side of the mountain.” Gradually forging his own path with serendipity on his side, this polyglot citizen of the world, who lived in late 1970s and in the 1980s in Italy has relocated to New York City in 1990, and went on to build an improbably successful one-man international music enterprise in defiance of standard music-biz practice – remarkably, with no concession of musical excellence and imagination. Along the way, he gathered around himself an ever-expanding constellation of adventurous musicians ranging from gifted lesser-known talents to such zeitgeist-defining figures as drum exemplar Bill Bruford, who hailed Leonardo’s abilities as an “enabler” of aspiring musicians, and guitar avatar Allan Holdsworth, who affectionately dubbed him “Nardini” and his singular approach to life “Nardinism.”
Leonardo runs MoonJune Music (booking and management) and MoonJune Records (independent record label) since 2001. In 2021, Leonardo has moved his life and his business adventures to the historic city of Toledo, in the Spanish region of Castilla La Mancha.
It was said about Mr. MoonJune
Leonardo, you are a magician, enabler, a Don Quixote, and my favorite one-man company in the world. […] I don’t think any single actor in my realm of the musical cosmos knows so many people and can remember them all. Long may you continue your improvisations, surviving, pursuit of your passions, and navigations on the fly. You sound like a musician without an instrument in his hands. […] Time for you to write a book called ‘Nothing is Ordinary’. – Bill Bruford, drum legend (United Kingdom)
MoonJune Records’ version of jazz may sound nothing like your granddaddy’s jazz… or maybe even your daddy’s … but in its unfettered spirit of exploration – wittingly deconstructing cultural and stylistic boundaries and relentlessly discovering new methods and new means – a good portion of its catalog is unequivocally imbued with the spirit that has defined the music since its inception. Fearless music for the 21st century, it’s where to go if you don’t want to hear where jazz is; it’s where to go if you want to hear where jazz is going. – John Kelman, All About Jazz (Canada)
Leonardo, the owner of the MoonJune Records label, is a guy often seen hobnobbing with the prog-rock and jazz-fusion intelligentsia at festivals and concert events worldwide — the man seems to know everyone, from everywhere. Small wonder that he’s a master at international networking with a globetrotting resume that likely boasts a king’s ransom in bonus miles. – John Collinge, Progression Magazine (USA)
Leonardo Pavkovic is a discoverer of new sonic landscapes and a visionary manager capable of anticipating new developments in jazz and rock while maintaining his focus on the legacy of past revolutions. Because of his vision and erudition know no physical or mental boundaries, MoonJune might seem an oddity founded by a starry-eyed idealist, a rather utopian proposition in our increasingly prefab musical world. MoonJune is not just a record label pushing out alternative music. It feels more like a family of like-minded musicians keen to explore new grounds while collaborating with each other and engaging in a dialogue between the past and the present. – Michel Delville, guitarist (Belgium)
It’s the only explanation for Nardini’s continued and tireless dedication to the music and Artists he looks after. His years of work with Allan Holdsworth alone should put him on the shortlist for sainthood. He wholeheartedly and unselfishly represents music which would not be called “mainstream” but is of great and sometimes historical importance to musicians and fans of jazz, fusion, and prog. And Leonardo continues to do great work in our unique corner of the music business. – Jimmy Johnson, bass player (USA)
In these days of immense difficulty brought on by the sudden, drastic devaluation of our art, it is, undoubtedly more than ever before, great to have gallant and determined ambassadors of music around – especially when they come in the form of fellows like sir Leonardo ‘Nardini’ Pavkovic, who’s label, MoonJune, was championing, pioneering and relentlessly forwarding artists and their work for the past decade and a half. Here is a man who gets behind everything and everyone he believes in – whatever the hardship and unfeasibility he faces – with gusto, wisdom, integrity and with real heart. – Gary Husband, drummer/pianist/keyboardist (UK)
It is very rare these days to come across someone like Leonardo Pavkovic who is both a genuine music lover and is so supportive of his artists in every way. Leonardo has a special ability to make connections between different musicians – often of different cultures and musical styles – and produce unique and new music. Leonardo’s label MoonJune Records has created over the last decade and a half such a variety of uncompromising artistic music. I feel lucky and blessed to be working with Leonardo, both on his label and on his booking roster, while looking forward to many future collaborations around the globe. – Asaf Sirkis, drummer/composer (Israel/UK)
MoonJune stands out because it doesn’t get caught up in pointless concepts like “is this too jazzy for us?, maybe this isn’t jazzy enough, is this too rock?, is this world music?” etc… Instead MoonJune works with criteria like, “how high is the quality of this music, what feeling does it have, is there something really new here”. That’s why the MoonJune label has become associated with quality and innovation. MoonJune ignores the conservative critics who reject or downplay anything outside their own restricted genre biases, and looks to the place where musical innovations have historically always happened, in the genre free mixing of influences. When it comes to committing the crime of presenting genre defying, innovative music in a world of compartmentalized risk averse, musical mundanity, Leonardo Pavkovic is the Godfather. – Mark Wingfield, guitarist (UK)
Leonardo’s perspective on music has served to encourage and inspire musicians throughout Indonesia to create the music on a higher level. MoonJune Records has been great in its impact, helping to orchestrate so many positive changes for the benefit of the Indonesian progressive music scene and its artists. – Agam Hamzah, guitarist (Indonesia)
MoonJune is much more than a records label and a booking agency. It is a musical planet within our crazy world where great music is made and heard. Leonardo Pavkovic is the most incredible and passionate music lover I’ve ever met. His knowledge of music, musicians and beyond is huge. In our very difficult time when the music business almost doesn’t exist, Leonardo manages to make so many things happen and doesn’t give up on it. I am extremely happy to be part of the MoonJune planet and I wish Leonardo and MoonJune many more great years and success. – Yaron Stavi, bass player (Israel/UK)
When it comes to prog-rock, jazz-rock, modern jazz, just to name a couple of the challenging and creative modern styles of music, Leonardo Pavkovic of MoonJune must be the most knowledgeable person I know, there are no bands or musicians from every little corner of the earth that he can’t tell you some transcendental story about them. At the beginning I thought that I had a great affinity with him because he not only knew all,.and I mean all of my heroes but he also was working closely with them in one way or another. Later I understood that my world was just a tiny little part of the whole picture and that his list of heroes was way bigger than mine. Luckily I’ve been learning a lot from wonderful musicians from all over the world thanks to Leonardo. Nowadays In the music business well respected managers and producers are the ones that have the eagle eye for the talent that will bring the big bucks and that is OK, but Leonardo is way more ambitious than that,he is trying to find the music from beyond the conventional that is aimed more to nurture your soul and satisfy your artistic persona. I am extremely fortunate to be working with him, the process of producing my album Dreamland Mechanism started with a commitment to make an absolutly satisfying work, and that was exactly what happened, and it would not have happen if he was not involved with it with the constant flow of positive ideas and criteria often unconventional for a regular producer. I want to thank Leonardo for being one of my best friends and for hearing more than mere influences on my music, that really takes real objectivity and not only the projection of your own experiences, and coming from Leonardo it means a great deal because Marco Polo only wishes he could have gone to all of the places Leonardo has been all around the face of this beautiful Planet Earth. – Beledo, guitarist/pianist/composer (Uruguay/USA)
MoonJune Records is the universal “go to” label for the exploring curious listener of progressive music with a heavy accent to Jazz and beyond Jazz. The alchemy of jazz, rock,avant-garde, fusion and world ethno future mixed here music knows no bounds. Take a sonic test drive and sample the music. Journey worldwide hearing the compositions,virtuosity, passions, excitements, and subtlety of the music of the legends and newer musicians back from London and Canterbury then jump to Belgium, Italy, Indonesia, Serbia, Germany, Israel, Japan, Spain, Uruguay, Canada, Brazil, USA and more. There is an implicit trust in the MoonJune brand that has created an alternative soundtrack for the listeners as well as the musicians themselves that continually cross pollinate and collaborate. Listen and come into the MoonJune Universe. – Mark Redlefsen, music reviewer (USA)
When excellent musicians land at the Planet MoonJune, they become EXCELLENTER. – Antonio Carlos Parisio Junior, concert promoter (Brazil)
Leonardo gave me the opportunity to release my work on MoonJune; now, six releases into the best label relationship a musician could ever wish for, awareness of my work has increased exponentially, as have the many deeply satisfying performance opportunities that have come my way as a result, from Siberia to Mexico. Equally important, my association with MoonJune has brought me into an extended family of mutually supportive kindred spirits, from the remarkable roster of nonpareil MoonJunista musicians from all over the globe, to the uncommonly attuned listeners who give our work its raison d’etre. Like its namesake orb, MoonJune steadily casts its light across a commercially ravaged musical landscape without ever capitulating to ‘the market,’ a rare paragon of musical virtue in ever more culturally bankrupt times. Boundless thanks to Leonardo for his belief in me and the other members of MoonJune’s singular tribe, and for bringing nourishing musical sustenance to fearless listeners worldwide – long may the Moon shine! – Dennis Rea, guitarist/composer (USA)
If a documentary was ever to be made about the musical journey of MoonJune Records’ maestro Leonardo Pavkovic, it would likely be called: “Leonardo/An Improvised Life”. His curatorial role in the creation of musical ventures is done in much the same spirit as the greatest of jazz improvisers interacting with other players in a spontaneous situation resulting in a synergistic whole which is greater than any of the individual parts. He is a master audio alchemist who envisions the possible outcomes of melding different players from different backgrounds into a soup that would not otherwise be made. The outcomes of these experiments are always richly rewarding in their scope and originality. There is also a wonderful social component to this method as the players, hand-plucked apples from the world orchard of musicians, become long-lasting friends destined to revisit and recombine in an infinite mix of musical masterpieces. – Dan Burke, architect, music collector, fan, former music journalist (USA)
One needs to create a new category to encompass the multifaceted activities of Leonardo Pavkovic, who as sole operator of MoonJune Music – comprising both a record label and a booking and management agency – has connected hundreds of deserving creative musicians from around the globe to a supportive worldwide audience.
Simply listing his many roles and talents – label owner, booking agent, graphic designer, networker extraordinaire, prodigious world traveler, book publisher, raconteur, musical matchmaker, and tour manager for numerous legendary artists, just for starters – scarcely does justice to the far-reaching scope of Pavkovic’s intersecting activities. He’s more accurately characterized as a preternaturally effective community builder in the service of creative music, a sort of supranational Johnny Appleseed scattering spores of musical goodness across a borderless planet.
2021 marked 20 years of MoonJune Music’s existence and continued growth, a milestone that was far from assured back when Pavkovic made his first humble foray into record production as a favor to friends around the turn of the millennium. Things developed organically from there, and the label and associated management company are now recognized leaders in the world of progressive music, forward-thinking jazz, and “the unknown.” The secrets to MoonJune’s success? A global gazetteer of artists like no other; an unusually adaptive way of doing business; and above all Pavkovic’s singular personality and drive.
MoonJune Records has managed to modestly thrive within a careening music marketplace by adopting a reality-based business model. A MoonJune Records ‘deal’ is a handshake agreement based on trust in an otherwise rapacious world, and on personal rapport rather than solicitation. Neither Pavkovic nor the label’s artists are under any illusion that they’ll grow wealthy from record sales amid the ruins of a gutted music industry – particularly when the music on offer typically appeals to a niche audience even in the best of times – so they’ve sensibly scaled back expectations while still hewing to a high standard of musical integrity. The artists know from experience that musical success isn’t measured by sales – as Pavkovic likes to say, “Success is having at least one person who likes your music” – but that intangible benefits of equal value accrue from being a member of the MoonJune Records family.
Pavkovic’s position at the nexus of a carefully cultivated network of similarly attuned listeners, journalists, and of course musicians gives MoonJune Records artists invaluable access to specialized audiences and booking opportunities they’d be unlikely to find otherwise, often leading to press coverage and international concert tours. Equally important, exposure to fellow MoonJune Records musicians – Pavkovic may be the only label head who sends all of his artists’ releases to every other MoonJune artist – frequently engenders fresh new collaborations among the musicians themselves. Informal encounters have culminated in the periodic sessions Pavkovic directs (a term he prefers to ‘produces’) at the famed Spanish recording studio La Casa Murada, blending MoonJune Records artists from disparate backgrounds and locales with spectacular results. It’s a remarkably consanguine community that’s refreshingly free of competitive baggage.
What truly distinguishes MoonJune Music from other labels and booking agencies is its unusual geographical sweep, ranging from Europe to Asia and both American continents (with Africa to come). To give just one notable example, MoonJune Music has become the principal conduit introducing global listeners to adventurous modern music from Indonesia, a serious game-changer for players whose music had never before penetrated the world at large. Other MoonJunistas hail from the USA, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Germany, Poland, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Japan, and Israel, and soon Iran and South Africa, and Mexico. Pavkovic’s background uniquely positions him to helm such a multilingual mélange, both verbally and musically: Born in the former Yugoslavia, itself a historic cultural crossroads, he came of age in Italy, eventually settled in New York City in 1990, and has traveled to 87 countries at last count, many in his role as booking representative and tour manager for such distinguished artists as Allan Holdsworth, Soft Machine, Stick Men, and PFM. A largely self-taught polyglot, he’s fluent in his native Bosnian Serbo-Croatian, adoptive native Italian, Portuguese (studied at the university level), Spanish, and English and is conversant in several other tongues, enabling him to forge deeper connections with non-Anglophone musicians. He listens voraciously and without prejudice to music of nearly every genre, insisting chiefly on instrumental excellence and musical depth.
But Pavkovic’s enthusiasms and involvements are by no means limited to music. Far from hewing to a typical venue-hotel-airport-repeat routine when on the road, the incurably curious and gregarious traveler makes a point of exploring the culture, history, language, and cuisine of each locale he visits, continuously expanding the known MoonJuniverse. He’s gained a reputation as a Bourdainesque epicure and is eager to share his discoveries and insights with others in a spirit of global interchange.
If it’s true that one can judge a person’s character by the company they keep, Pavkovic’s choice of fellow travelers speaks volumes. Once a wide-eared young fan of 1970s progressive rock and jazz fusion, he now counts among his clients and friends the likes of Tony Levin, Phil Manzanera, Derek Shulman, Roy Babbington, David Cross, Jan Akkerman, Frank Gambale, John Etheridge, Jimmy Haslip, Percy Jones, Alex Skolnick, Andy Summers, and Bill Bruford. Yet for all of the A-listers in his orbit, what satisfies him most is discovering deserving lesser-known musicians and helping them actualize their dreams while broadening the horizons of MoonJune Music’s far-flung family of listeners. The way Pavkovic sees it, music has so enriched his life that he feels compelled to return the favor; borrowing from the great Sun Ra, his maxim is “Give something to life, life will give back.”
The year 2022 was especially auspicious for Pavkovic and MoonJune Music. After decades spent in NYC, Leonardo relocated to the exquisite medieval city of Toledo, Spain, now MoonJune’s world headquarters. That summer MoonJune Music marked more than 20 years of vitality with its first MoonJune International Music Festival, fittingly held in his native Jajce, Bosnia, where Pavkovic’s remarkable journey began 60 years earlier. The inaugural festival featured MoonJune artists and special guests from three continents, with future editions to be staged in a different world beauty spot each year, including Toledo in 2023.
As it begins its third decade, MoonJune Music has released 130 albums to date featuring artists from more than 30 different countries. Pavkovic has also booked and/or coordinated over 2,500 concerts in more than 60 countries around the globe, on all continents except Antarctica. A book and video documentary about Pavkovic and MoonJune Music are currently in progress, and plans are taking shape to expand his business activities beyond the musical sphere into cultural and culinary fields as well.
Pavkovic is confident that 2023 will be a watershed year for MoonJune Music, as evidenced by a marked increase in the number of booking and management inquiries coming his way from well-respected artists who’ve been hearing great things about him from music-world peers. He believes it’s a logical outcome of a personal philosophy that values human connection across imagined boundaries; trust; respect; pragmatism; and an openness to new experience.
It’s the best kind of lunacy – courtesy of Mr. MoonJune aka Leonardo Pavkovic
About MoonJune Records:
11th Placement Record Label Of The Year, DownBeat Readers Poll 2015
7th Placement Record Label Of The Year, DownBeat Readers Poll 2016
4th Placement Record Label Of The Year, DownBeat Readers Poll 2017
3rd Placement Record Label Of The Year, DownBeat Readers Poll 2018
4th Placement Record Label Of The Year, DownBeat Readers Poll 2020
20th Placement Record Label Of The Year, DownBeat Readers Poll 2021
19th Placement Record Label Of The Year, DownBeat Readers Poll 2022
4th Placement Prog Hero, Prog Magazine Poll 2021
3rd Placement Prog Hero, Prog Magazine Poll 2022
3rd Placement, Record Label Of The Year, All About Jazz 2020
A few interviews with Mr. MoonJune: