Sony Classical is relaunching historic OKeh Records as its primary jazz imprint. The imprint will be part of Sony Masterworks in the U.S., Sony Classical’s domestic branch. Overseeing OKeh will be Chuck Mitchell, senior VP at Sony Masterworks, and Wulf Muller, Sony Classical’s exclusive jazz A&R and marketing consultant.
Focusing on both new and established artists who embody “global expressions in jazz,” OKeh is eyeing between 10-12 projects for release this year. The first wave includes John Medeski (A Different Time, April 9) and David Sanborn & Bob James (title TBA, May) as well as Bill Frisell and Dhafer Youssef.
Muller, a 29-year industry veteran who recently joined Sony Classical, conceived the OKeh relaunch. “We hope to create a label that will define the present and future of the music we call jazz,” said Muller in a release announcing the news. “OKeh’s tradition as a label for great improvised music of its time, its connection to some of the most influential artists in the genres of jazz and blues, made it the perfect label for us to use.”
Mitchell, most recently VP at eOne Music and formerly worldwide president of Verve, joined Sony Masterworks a few months ago. “The re-activation of OKeh comes at a particularly auspicious moment in the international evolution of creative music,” added Mitchell. “Wulf’s knowledge of and commitment to jazz make him the ideal individual to lead the next chapter in the development of this historically important imprint.”
Founded in 1918, OKeh built its reputation with artists from the classic jazz and blues arenas. The label’s roster boasted such iconic talents as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, King Oliver and Sidney Bechet.
Sony Classical is headed by president Bogdan Roscic. Sony Masterworks comprises the Masterworks, Masterworks Broadway, OKeh, Portrait, RCA Red Seal and Sony Classical imprints.