October 15th 2018 – on this day 35 years ago I started my first job in the music industry at PolyGram in Vienna, Austria, being the # 2 of the small operation of their Import Music Service. I had run a jazz club in Vienna with some friends before that and started a jazz magazine with others as well, but this was the start of so far 35 incredibly rewarding years, working with artists and their music. After a few months I took over the little operation IMS and started to sign jazz labels for distribution in Austria – Gramavision for example and imported all the Fantasy, Milestone, Prestige, Riverside and Pablo recordings and with that made some good business and increased the turnover of the little operation. After I moved on to the pop division as a product manager for UK releases, I still kept an eye on the jazz world and was able to secure a deal with ECM for Austria as well. After a few years on the job, meanwhile heading the international product division, I was allowed to begin local jazz productions with Wolfgang Muthspiel, Wolfgang Puschnig, Linda Sharrock and the Vienna Art Orchestra, to name just a few, on the amadeo label. Puschnig’s ‘Pieces Of The Dream’ was the first of these to be made available internationally in 1988, followed by many others.
These productions obviously got the attention of our big bosses, who were planning to re-organize the global jazz structure and they offered me the job to do so. In 1992 I moved to London to co-ordinate the global PolyGram jazz activities and do the worldwide marketing and promotion for the big albums within the jazz world .. these releases coming mainly from the USA (Verve and Antilles), France (EmArCy) and Japan (jmt). It was like a dream – I met all my favourite jazz musicians, got to work with many of them and made a lot of friends. We marketed records by Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Horn, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Roy Hargrove, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Ornette Coleman, John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Randy Weston, David Sanborn, Dave Holland, George Benson and Michael Brecker among many others. When Universal bought PolyGram in 1998 I was asked to continue in my position as V.P, International Marketing for Classic and Jazz priorities, but added A&R for EmArCy records to my portfolio as we got less records from the US as the international markets needed to have the jazz operation run successfully – therefore I oversaw some local jazz activities and started to sign artists to EmArCy, the old mercury jazz label. John Scofield, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Madeleine Peyroux, Branford Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Michael Brecker, Michel Camilo, The Bad Plus, James Carter, Sonny Rollins, Terry Callier, Tuck & Patti, Randy Crawford & Joe Sample, Ketil Bjornstad and others were signed by me then, as well as youngsters Julian Lage and Gerald Clayton, whose first releases appeared on EmArCy in 2009. Artists signed to local Universal companies I worked with at that time include Maria Joao, Till Bronner, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Anna Maria Jopek, Bugge Wesseltoft and his Jazzland Recordings, Monday Michiru, Jef Neve, Karen Mok and Sergio Mendes among many more from various countries.
After leaving Universal in 2010 I set up All-In-Music-Service with my wife, as a consultancy for labels and artists and we started to book some artists in Europe, like Branford Marsalis, but that we only did until 2016. Since 2012 we are working for Sony Music’s classical division Masterworks. There I was asked to re-built the old OKeh imprint into a jazz label for today. In quick succession I was able to sign and release albums with John Medeski, Bill Frisell, Michel Camilo, Craig Handy, Dave Holland, Dhafer Youssef and Jeff Ballard. To make a point that OKeh was there to be taken seriously we released albums by young musicians such as Nir Felder, Somi, Theo Croker, James Brandon Lewis and Jo-Yu Chen and to show as well that we could attract major talent and have a roster covering all aspects of improvised music I signed and released albums by Sonny Rollins, Sergio Mendes, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling, David Sanborn and Till Brönner.
Beside that I was involved in or oversaw local releases within the OKeh family by Kat Edmonson, The Bad Plus, Regina Carter, Nils Petter Molvaer, Robin McKelle, Silje Nergaard, Camille Bertault, Baptiste Trotignon, Mario Biondi, Stacey Kent, Rebekka Bakken, Hugh Coltman, Bria Skonberg, triosence, Markus Stockhausen, BamesreiterSchwartzOrchester, the Polish trio RGG and Sly & Robbie plus Nils Petter Molvaer.
The dream continues and while still looking for new talent and having some on a list as possible signings, the work with the musicians on the roster is as rewarding as it always has been. The artists I worked with directly and the albums they released gathered numerous awards around the world, including 4 Grammys, 1 Latin Grammy, 5 ECHO awards and top awards from France, Japan, Holland and many more countries. I am honoured to call some of these amazingly creative people my friends and I am aware of and grateful for the luck I had in life being able to make a job out of my passion for music and especially jazz. I am happy to share my experience and knowledge with young musicians in events like Take 5, the UK initiative for young jazz musicians, or the Montreux Academy, organised by the jazz festival of Montreux, Switzerland.
Thanks to all the musicians that made these 35 years very special indeed and here’s to a few more … see you hopefully at a festival or gig very soon!