JENKINS TWP. – WVIA received an unprecedented gift last year when local businessman and benefactor Andrew Sordoni gave it the record company Chiaroscuro.
WVIA CEO Bill Kelly and Executive Vice President Tom Curra are excited about two ways the company has begun sharing the gift of the Chiaroscuro recordings with the world.
Chiaroscuro recorded outstanding jazz musicians in the 1970s and 1980s, a period when these musicians were being largely ignored by major record companies. The label's website, www.chiaroscurojazz.org, states that half of the musicians in the American Jazz Hall of Fame have made recordings for the company.
WVIA is now streaming this music 24/7 online and through an HD radio station. It has also put out a catalog of more than 300 albums, which are available for purchase. Each album is a reissue that has been carefully restored and digitized.
"We still have 20 or so analog recordings not released on CD," Curra said.
WVIA employee George Graham is in the process of restoring those tapes.
Graham is known to many in the area as the host of "Mixed Bag" and the creator of the concert series "Homegrown Music."
Curra said about 60 percent of album sales are CDs that are being shipped around the world. "The CDs are burned here and wrapped, and then a volunteer ships them to a distributor." The company has a distributor for North America, and distributors in Spain, Portugal and Japan.
The other 40 percent of sales are downloaded as MP3 files from the Internet.
Kelly is excited about the new radio station WVIA has created to introduce these recordings to music lovers around the world.
The Chiaroscuro Channel streams individual tracks from the company's albums online 365 days a year from its website. The advertising-free channel is also available to HD radio owners as WVIA 89.9 FM HD3.
Kelly said the purpose of the channel is "exploiting the gift he (Sordoni) gave us with international distribution in a way to persuade people to buy their own CDs."
The channel is on the air but is still being tweaked.
"Our plan is to increase the volume of sales digitally or in CDs through the Chiaroscuro Channel. Before that happens we want to perfect the project, to work on the mix. We haven't figured it out quite yet," Kelly said.
Kelly remembers when radio stations used to be housed in buildings. He showed off the computer that broadcasts the jazz channel. "A radio station can be in a computer," he said. "That's huge!"
Curra and Kelly are excited about growing the audience for the record company and its radio channel. And both know the value of these recordings as musical history.
Sordoni's gift included inventory and two sets of master tapes of the full recording sessions made by jazz masters of the 20th century. Curra says musicologists have expressed interest in this unique collection.
One set of master tapes now resides in a climate-controlled room at the WVIA studios. The other identical set is in high-security storage off-site.
Chiaroscuro is doing well. Curra reports that the company is already in the black.
Kelly said he did not know what role commercial advertising would eventually play in the promotion of Chiaroscuro Records.
"We're on a limited budget. Because it was donated we're not in a great hurry. We think it has a lot of potential."
There's no doubt that lovers of jazz appreciate WVIA for the gift of Chiaroscuro's music.
Chiaroscuro's website, www.chiaroscurojazz.org, suggests you say "key arrow skew row" to pronounce its unusual name. CDs and downloads of the label's jazz recordings are available at the website and from online retailers such as iTunes and Amazon.
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