|Genre||Jazz, R&B, Jam|
|Founder(s)||J. Allan Hall|
Owl Studios is an independent record label, started in 2005 by J. Allan Hall, that concentrates on jazz, R&B, and jam band genres. It is based in Indianapolis, Indiana and operates from its downtown offices on Monument Circle.
Owl Studios was founded in 2005 as an unconventionally "artist friendly" label focusing on a much more generous profit sharing business plan than typical record labels offer. Founder J. Allan Hall said, "We are approaching the recording business from a rather non-conventional direction. I do not see us as competing in the same arena as the big guys.... A few unique aspects to our business approach make working with Owl Studios a unique and interesting opportunity."
Owl Studios announced its arrival with the signing of six of Indianapolis' most notable jazz musicians and groups: tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon, soulful vocalist Cynthia Layne, trumpet player Derrick Gardner, pianist and composer Steve Allee, clarinet and saxophonist Frank Glover, and the Busselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra. By the end of its first two years of operation, Owl Studios had more than a dozen releases under its belt, and it continues this high productivity today.
After the success of the label's initial group of artists, Owl Studios began to branch out to sign artists from outside the Indianapolis area, including Chicago guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque and his jam band project Garaj Mahal, Chicago trumpet player Pharez Whitted, as well as New York City groups Bill Moring & Way Out East, and the Rick Germanson Trio, among others.
In January 2010, Owl Studios artist Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets won the Independent Music Award for their album Echoes of Ethnicity. Later in that same year, the label signed Headhunters and Brand X drummer Mike Clark and released his album Carnival of Soul, which was nominated for the best jazz album award itself the next year.
Shortly thereafter, Owl Studios signed Mike Clark's original band, jazz/funk ensemble The Headhunters, whose album Head Hunters with Herbie Hancock was the only jazz album ever to achieve platinum status in the United States, to its roster in 2010. The group releases its Owl Studios debut Platinum on June 14, 2011.
The "Owl Studios Sound"
The label's website has featured the mission statement, "Owl Studios is about expanding the elements of jazz to create a new sound, an Owl Studios sound. So what makes an Owl Studios sound? We mix jazz, groove, funk, soul....this goes on." While this newer urban-fusion sound is not represented by every artist on the Owl Studios roster, it is exemplified by artists such as Rob Dixon and The Headhunters, who commonly feature rap, hip hop, and funk artists, such as Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, Killah Priest, and Indianapolis rapper Jaecyn Bayne in their music in efforts to renew and revive jazz to a younger generation of fans.
In 2009 members of Owl Studios management purchased the rights to the Indy Jazz Fest from the American Pianists Association and took ownership of the annual festival, transforming it into a non-profit organization and using it as a vehicle to promote jazz music and education in Indianapolis.
In 2010, Owl Studios started the Emerging Jazz Artist Project, giving the opportunity to young jazz artists to have a professionally recorded, distributed, and promoted album under the Owl Studios moniker. The first Emerging Jazz Artist, selected from countless applicants was the Jeff McLaughlin Quartet, whose album Blocks was released on July 12, 2011.
Current Artist Roster
- Steve Allee Trio
- Busselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra
- Mike Clark
- Rob Dixon & Trilogy +1
- The Dixon-Rhyne Project
- The Headhunters
- Garaj Mahal
- Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets
- Rick Germanson Trio
- Frank Glover
- Fareed Haque & the Flat Earth Ensemble
- Todd Harrold
- Monika Herzig
- Cynthia Layne
- Bill Moring & Way Out East
- The Twin Cats
- Pharez Whitted