Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) has announced the launch of their own record label.
Called Blue Engine Records, the label will serve as an imprint of Sony Music Entertainment and help the organization release and monetize their large archive of recorded material.
Since it was founded in 1987, JALC has hosted or promoted thousands of concerts. A large proportion of those concerts, particularly their most recent ones, were recorded; meaning that they are sitting on a huge library of material that jazz fans would love to get their hands on. They also hold a number of studio recordings, including one featuring critically acclaimed pianist Chick Corea.
The releases will be widely distributed both physically on CDs/Vinyl and digitally to download/stream thanks to some help from RED Distribution; the Sony Music-owned company that will also help JALC market their releases to a wider audience.
Given that jazz is among America’s least popular genres of music, the launch of a new imprint that will be heavily dependent on sales over streaming seems counter-intuitive. However, Sony is believed to be happy with the performance of their recent re-launch of the historic OKeh Records as its primary jazz imprint, and it seems they’re trying to build upon that success with Blue Engine Records. However, they may have an uphill battle considering JALC isn’t the only jazz organization to have their own label. The relatively small size of the market should also cause concern, but Sony appears optimistic.
“There is a significant market for jazz,” RED’s president Bob Morelli told the New York Times. “I don’t see this becoming Madonna, where Wynton’s going to do halftime at the Super Bowl, but virtually anything is possible… We’re going to be as aggressive as we can.”
Blue Engine has around 80 recordings ready to mix immediately. These recordings, as well as new recordings of the JALC Orchestra, will be rolled out slowly over the next 15 years, with just six releases a year. While the JALC Orchestra features heavily on these releases, many will also feature outside artists.
The label’s first release will be a recording of JALC’s managing and artistic director Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s October 2010 performance at the Mella Theater in Havana. Titled Live In Cuba and due for release on August 21, 2015, the album will see the band explore how Afro-Cuban music influenced American jazz.
The JALC Orchestra is also planning to embark on a 12-city ‘Blue Engine Tour,’ according to the NY Times, which will see the band perform at festivals and concerts across the U.S. to promote their upcoming releases.