New Owners Acquire Delmark Records


Julia A. Miller and Elbio Barilari recently acquired Delmark Records

(Photo: Courtesy of Julia A. Miller)

With a catalog that spans the jazz and blues canon, Chicago’s Delmark Records for decades has documented the vanguard of music.

As the label and its founder, Bob Koester, near its 65th anniversary, which will be celebrated at the Chicago Blues Festival during June, the imprint has been acquired by new owners. Julia A. Miller and Elbio Barilari, Chicago arts enthusiasts and musicians who perform as Volcano Radar, have purchased the imprint, it’s catalog and masters, Riverside Studio and all associated intellectual property, according to Miller.

Koester, who ran Jazz Record Mart until 2016, and then opened a scaled-down version of the shop, released everything from Sleepy John Estes recordings to early albums by Anthony Braxton, Sun Ra and members of AACM, while keeping tabs on newer Chicago talent.

Miller and Barilari are looking to expand on the imprint’s legacy.

“I wanted to start a record label—and own a record label and run a record label for 25 years. I’m interested in historical recording practice and techniques; also improvisation. It’s a unique part of the Delmark catalog,” said Miller, who teaches in the Sound department at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. “The artistic side, it being a sort of living history—and maintaining that and having it be a community hub—those things are really important to me.”

A spate of new albums already is planned for release this year, including Tribute To Carey Bell, an album helmed by the harmonica player’s son, guitarist Lurrie Bell, with contributions from Charlie Musselwhite.

“It’s really important to understand that Delmark is different than most labels,” Miller continued. “So, Delmark is known for unique performances. ... And that is what we hope to carry on.”

A part of the pair’s interest in sustaining the imprint is the platform it potentially will grant Chicago-area performers.

“What Chicago is missing is the opportunity to show in a very international way all the fantastic music that is here,” said Barilari, who teaches Latin American music at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Delmark has been doing that, but in a lowkey way, maybe because of Bob’s age. Chicago really needs more exposure, because when you go to Europe, they are very curious about what’s going on in Chicago, but [the music is] not always available.” DB

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July 2022
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