Pittston, PA – What can happen when an established record label is donated to a PBS and NPR station? What if those stations have a high definition television and 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound Theater under their roof? What if America’s finest jazz artists were given special access to such a facility?
Would the resulting audio and video recordings, performed before a live audience of passionate fans and later offered on the internet, CD’s and DVD’s inspire renewed interest in America’s classic music?
Answers are about to be learned as Chiaroscuro Records of New York passes from the loving hands of its long-time owners to WVIA TV and FM in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The company that eventually became Chiaroscuro was founded by Hank O’Neal, a former CIA agent, distinguished author, photographer, jazz authority and educator in 1970, in association with the legendary musician, Marian McPartland, and the noted industrialist and philanthropist Sherman M. Fairchild. After a period when the catalog was owned by AudioFidelity Enterprises, Chiaroscuro was acquired by SOS Productions, Inc., a company formed by O’Neal and Pennsylvania businessman Andrew Sordoni. These two, operating in the spirit of a partnership, reinvigorated the company, established a business headquarters in Wilkes Barre, Pa. while maintaining the creative office and studio in New York City.
Chiaroscuro Records is a collection of some 200 masters, equally divided between studio recordings and live concerts, many of which were presented on the legendary ocean liners S/S Norway and Queen Elizabeth 2, during the Floating Jazz Festival.
“I had been a fan of the company before I met Hank O’Neal, had personally purchased most of the vinyl recordings and was impressed with the Chiaroscuro format and intent to present and preserve the work of great but neglected musicians”, said Sordoni. “It is a happy coincidence that Hank and I became acquainted as the result of collaboration with Northeast Pennsylvania’s public television and radio stations in the annual production of the holiday public radio program, Christmas Music; The Jazz Feeling.”
Andrew Sordoni has been an active advocate, supporter and mentor to management, as well as a governing trustee of WVIA TV and FM for decades. Artists who now travel from New York and elsewhere to be part of the new Chiaroscuro label will perform in the Sordoni Theater, a gift of the family to the station’s ambitious “transformational change” conversion to digital high-definition. The donor spoke often of the need for WVIA to become a convener and common denominator. Now station officials look ahead to artistic impact far beyond the broadcast market it has long served.
The emerging vision for Chiaroscuro’s future is one that embraces and shares a breathtaking repository of historical recordings and expands on that tradition for lovers of this music throughout the world. While capturing new, digital, high-definition audio and video performances by internationally recognized artists in its state of the art theater studio, WVIA will also seek new jazz fans for priceless historical Chiaroscuro recordings of artists like the late Milt Hinton, Earl Fatha Hines, Joe Venuti, Teddy Wilson, Jonah Jones, Mary Lou Williams as well as vital younger artists such as Bill Charlap, Antonio Hart and Roy Hargrove, along with veterans like Lee Konitz, Randy Brecker and Abdullah Ibrahim.
WVIA also expects to build on a tradition begun decades ago by founders Sordoni and O’Neal by producing “Octogenarians in Jazz” a radio interview series once carried on many NPR stations. Now made for television, future conversations and live performances with still-performing, acclaimed senior jazz citizens will be offered to PBS and NPR stations across America.
“Andy Sordoni and Hank O’Neal put their hearts, a lot of time and much treasure into preserving the music of Chiaroscuro, and they wanted a home where it would be respected and kept alive. WVIA is expanding into non-traditional areas and this seems a perfect fit for our future,” said Bill Kelly, President of WVIA.
For more information on Chiaroscuro Records, please visit https://www.chiaroscurojazz.com/