Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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CHIAROSCURO label

Record label formed in 1970 in NYC by Hank O'Neal (b 5 June 1940, Kilgore TX), producer, editor, photographer, academic and businessman. Dedicated to mainstream jazz and with the help and advice of John Hammond initially, the label issued about 100 albums by Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, Ruby Braff, Buck Clayton, Bobby Hackett, Jess Stacy, Buddy Tate, Al Grey, Flip Phillips, Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan and many other giants who seemed to be ignored by the major labels, as well as others who had hardly been recorded at all, such as Dave McKenna, Bob Wilber and Soprano Summit (Wilber and Kenny Davern); items such as two volumes of Hackett's Live At The Roosevelt Grill '70, with Vic Dickenson, Dave McKenna, Jack Lesberg on bass and Cliff Leeman on drums, were a godsend to mainstream fans outside NYC; a sextet led by guitarist Jack Wilkins (on Merge '77) had the Brecker brothers, Phil Markowitz on piano, bassists Eddie Gomez or Jon Burr, drummers Jack DeJohnette or Al Foster.

O'Neal produced nearly all the sessions himself; he built his own WARP studios (the first recording made there was Teddy Wilson's solo With Billie In Mind '72), which was upgraded and the name changed to Downtown Sound (John Bunch Plays Kurt Weill '75); the engineering was always first class (often by Fred Miller). Recordings were made '77 by Hamiet Bluiett, clarinettist Perry Robinson (b 17 August 1938, NYC) and Abdullah Ibrahim (the beautiful Buddy Tate Meets Abdullah Ibrahim) but in that year O'Neal sold the label to Audiophile. He continued producing independently; Gerry Mulligan's Little Big Horn was issued on GRP, Walk On The Water on DRG; there were other recordings by Joe Turner, Hannibal Peterson etc.

With Andrew Sordoni, O'Neal formed SOS Productions '87, reacquired the rights to Chiaroscuro and began issuing CDs; new recordings included the guitar and bass duo Gene Bertoncini and Michael Moore (profiled by Whitney Balliett in the New Yorker): Two In Time '89, as well as Roger Kellaway Meets The Duo '92; also Terry Gibbs's Play That Song '94, sets by Milt Hinton from '89 and '94, etc. By early '97 there were almost 70 titles available; recordings from the interregnum which had never been released were A Handful Of Stars by Adam Makowicz, and Meeting At Delphi, duets by Lee Konitz and Martial Solal. A new label, Downtown Sound, was planned for reissue and new recordings of newer music.