Bob Koester, who based the influential Chicago blues and jazz label Delmark Records and was additionally the proprietor of an equally influential document retailer the place gamers and followers mingled as they sought out new and classic sounds, died on Wednesday at a care middle in Evanston, Ill., close to his house in Chicago. He was 88.
His spouse, Sue Koester, stated the trigger was problems of a stroke.
Mr. Koester was a pivotal determine in Chicago and past, releasing early efforts by Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, Jimmy Dawkins, Magic Sam and quite a few different jazz and blues musicians. He captured the sound of Chicago’s vibrant blues scene of the 1960s on information like “Hoodoo Man Blues,” a a lot admired album by the singer and harmonica participant Junior Wells, that includes the guitarist Buddy Guy, that was recorded in 1965.
“Bob told us, ‘Play me a record just like you played last night in the club,’” Mr. Guy recalled in a 2009 interview with The New York Times, and in some way he caught the electrical really feel of a reside efficiency. In 2008 the document was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
About the identical time, Delmark was recording early examples of the avant-garde jazz being promulgated by the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and different members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a corporation fashioned in Chicago in 1965. The firm’s recordings weren’t, typically, the sort that generated plenty of gross sales.
“If he felt something was significant, he wasn’t going to think about whether it would sell,” Ms. Koester stated by telephone. “He wanted people to hear it and experience the significance.”
As Howard Mandel, the jazz critic and writer, put it in a telephone interview: “He followed his own star. He was not at all interested in trends.”
For many years Mr. Koester’s document retailer, the Jazz Record Mart, supplied sufficient monetary help to permit Delmark to make information that didn’t promote plenty of copies. The retailer was greater than an outlet for Delmark’s artists; it was filled with all types of information, lots of them from collections Mr. Koester purchased or traded for.
“The place was just an amazing crossroads of people,” stated Mr. Mandel, who labored there for a time within the early 1970s. Music lovers would come on the lookout for obscure information; vacationers would come due to the shop’s status; musicians would come to swap tales and concepts.
“Shakey Walter Horton and Ransom Knowling would hang out there, and Sunnyland Slim and Homesick James were always dropping by,” the harmonica participant and bandleader Charlie Musselwhite, who was a clerk on the retailer within the mid-1960s, advised The Times in 2009, rattling off the names of some fellow blues musicians. “You never knew what fascinating characters would wander in, so I always felt like I was in the eye of the storm there.”
Mr. Mandel stated a part of the enjoyable was tapping into Mr. Koestel’s deep reservoir of arcane musical data.
“You’d get into a conversation with him,” he stated, “and in 10 minutes he was talking about some obscure wormhole of a serial number on a pressing.”
Ms. Koester stated the shop held a particular place in her husband’s coronary heart — a lot in order that when he lastly closed it in 2016, citing rising hire, he opened one other, Bob’s Blues and Jazz Mart, nearly instantly.
“He loved going into the studio in the days when he was recording Junior Wells and Jimmy Dawkins,” she stated, “but retail was in his blood.”
He particularly beloved speaking to prospects.
“Often they came into the store looking for one thing,” she stated, “and he pointed them in another direction.”
Robert Gregg Koester was born on Oct. 30, 1932, in Wichita, Kan. His father, Edward, was a petroleum geologist, and his mom, Mary (Frank) Koester, was a homemaker.
He grew up in Wichita. A 78 r.p.m. document by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in his grandfather’s assortment intrigued him when he was younger, he stated in an oral history recorded in 2017 by the National Association of Music Merchants. But, he advised Richard Marcus in a 2008 interview for blogcritics.com, additional musical exploration wasn’t straightforward.
“I never liked country music, and growing up in Wichita, Kansas, there wasn’t much else,” he stated. “There was a mystery to the names of those old blues guys — Speckled Red, Pinetop Perkins — that made it sound really appealing. Probably something to do with a repressed Catholic upbringing.”
College at Saint Louis University, the place he enrolled to review cinematography, broadened his musical alternatives.
“My parents didn’t want me going to school in one of the big cities like New York or Chicago because they didn’t want me to be distracted from my studies by music,” he stated. “Unfortunately for them, there were Black jazz clubs all around the university.”
He additionally joined the St. Louis Jazz Club, a jazz appreciation group. And he began accumulating and buying and selling information, particularly conventional jazz 78s, out of his dorm room. The quickly rising document enterprise crowded out his research.
“I went to three years at Saint Louie U,” he stated within the oral historical past. “They told me not to come back for a fourth year.”
His dorm-room enterprise become a retailer, the place he bought each new and used information.
“I’d make regular runs, hitting all the secondhand stores, Father Dempsey’s Charities, places like that, buying used records,” he advised The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1993 for an article marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of his document label. “And I’d order records through the mail. Then I’d sell records at the Jazz Club meetings. That was the beginning of my retail business.”
He had began recording musicians as properly. He initially referred to as his label Delmar, after a St. Louis boulevard, however as soon as he relocated to Chicago within the late 1950s he added the Okay.
He acquired a Chicago document store from a trumpeter named Seymour Schwartz in 1959 and shortly turned it into the Jazz Record Mart. His label not solely recorded the gamers of the day but in addition reissued older recordings.
“He beloved obscure document labels from the ‘30s and ‘40s, and he acquired several of them,” Mr. Mandel said. “He reissued a lot of stuff from fairly obscure artists who had recorded independently. He salvaged their best work.”
Mr. Koester was white; most of the artists he dealt with were Black.
“He was totally into Black music,” Mr. Mandel said. “Not only Black music, but he definitely gave Black music its due in a way that other labels were not.”
That made Mr. Koester stand out in Chicago when he went out on the town sampling talent.
“When a white guy showed up in a Black bar, it was assumed he was either a cop, a bill collector or looking for sex,” Mr. Koester told blogcritic.com. “When they found out you were there to listen to the music and for no other reason, you were a friend. The worst times I had were from white cops who would try and throw me out of the bars. They probably thought I was there dealing drugs or something.”
It was the atmosphere of those nightclubs that he tried to capture in his recording studio.
“I don’t consider in manufacturing,” he stated. “I’m not about to bring in a bunch of stuff that you can’t hear a guy doing when he’s up onstage.”
In addition to his spouse, whom he met when she labored throughout the road from his retailer and whom he married in 1967, Mr. Koester is survived by a son, Robert Jr.; a daughter, Kate Koester; and two grandchildren.
Ms. Koester stated their son will proceed to function Bob’s Blues and Jazz Mart. Mr. Koester sold Delmark in 2018.
Mr. Koester’s document firm performed an vital function in documenting two musical genres, however his spouse stated that past taking part in somewhat piano, he was not musically educated himself.
“He would say his music was listening,” she stated.