Jazz at Lincoln Center, Sony Launch Blue Engine LabelJazz at Lincoln Center has teamed up with Sony to create a new label, Blue Engine Records. Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis made the announcement at JALC’s performance complex in New York City during a July 1 launch party.
Blue Engine will release a mix of new live and studio recordings, as well as drawing from a library of hundreds of archival recordings dating back to the organization’s founding in 1987.
Marsalis described the venture as another way of fulfilling its mission to promote jazz worldwide. About a half-dozen releases are planned for the label’s first year, starting with the Aug. 21 release of The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis–Live in Cuba, recorded at Havana’s Mella Theatre over three nights in October 2010.
JALC has entered into an agreement with RED Distribution, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, for U.S. distribution of Blue Engine CDs and vinyl records and for global distribution of digital music products. The label will be operated by JALC’s Brand and Audience Development department, which is managed by Gabrielle Armand.
The launch party attracted some of the leading lights of the jazz world, including NEA Jazz Masters Jimmy Heath, Jimmy Cobb and Toshiko Akiyoshi, as well as Lew Tabackin, Christian McBride and Monty Alexander. Among the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra present were bassist Carlos Henriquez and saxophonists Joe Temperley and Ted Nash.
“We’ve had so many great performances by musicians down through the years, too many to count, really,” Marsalis told the crowd. “From our first concerts at Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall, to performances here in the ‘House of Swing’ [Rose Hall], we have over 28 years of recordings—performances by big bands, small bands, collaborations with all types of musicians—everybody from Aaron Diehl to Willie Nelson. We are going to release as many of these recordings as we can.”
Marsalis reflected on the organization’s history: “In the beginning, our goal was to … present good concerts. Then it became more to gather a community around us. Now, we’re trying to use our deep [recording] archive to aggregate our global audience, which we know exists. People love our music all over the world.”
Although initial releases will focus mainly on the JLCO, Marsalis told DownBeat, “We will extend it to other performers as well, later on.”
JALC Executive Director Greg Scholl noted that the organization is not just a concert presenter, an orchestra or a New York performing arts center. “It’s all those things, but it’s a lot more,” he said. Among the organization’s accomplishments during the fiscal year ending June 30 were the presentation of 110 concerts for 78,000 ticket buyers, plus tours by the JLCO that attracted an additional 75,000 fans. JALC offered 296 free webcasts, which typically attract visitors from between 50 and 100 nations.
Scholl also cited JALC’s new radio show, Jazz Night In America (co-produced with NPR Music and WBGO); a web video series on YouTube and other outlets; and educational activities including a library of more than 600 jazz education videos available for free through the organization’s Jazz Academy website.
The worldwide audience for jazz, Scholl said, is “very large, but it’s very diffuse. We want to bring all these people together. Three years ago we set a goal: We wanted to connect with a million people worldwide. In April we hit that goal,” he said, referring to people reached via social media and the organization’s jazz.org website. “We want to start engaging that audience. Blue Engine will be an important part of how we do that.”
(To read a 2014 review of an outdoor concert by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, click here.)
by Allen Morrison