Yes, I am not exaggerating...this small Jazz Label in Osaka Japan has a really interesting story!
The Label is called
Kobo in Japanese means craftsmanship. The owner is Mr. Yoshiaki Sawano. His family has a long time family business of selling slippers and sandals in Osaka. They have been doing that business for more than 100 years!
So, Mr.Sawano has no musical background or Jazz. But when he was in his university, he started collecting Jazz records he loves. Whenever he got money he spent all to buy Jazz records one by one. His younger brother also loves Jazz and did the same.
After graduating from the university, he went back home to help his father in selling slippers. Again, when he got money out of his business, he spent all to buy Jazz records, and his brother followed. After years of doing that collecting thousands of Jazz records, they ended up with no more new titles to buy in the entire Japan!! They were crazy Jazz collectors!!
What is more interesting is that the younger brother decided to go to Europe, for hunting more new, unknown Jazz records!! He went to France, Germany, and England. There he would buy new Jazz records and bring them back to Japan. The brothers kept doing that for years. And in the process of doing that, the younger brother was able to have a strong connection with local Jazz musicians and many distributors of records in Europe.
One day, they had an idea to export Japanese Jazz Reissue records to Europe and sell them there, like Blue Note reissues by King Record, or Prestige and Riverside reissues by Victor music Japan. In the early 80's, Mr.Sawano went to Tokyo, the headquarters of Victor Music Japan, the International Marketing section, there he met a person in charge. He said,
What can I do for you?
We are now starting our record business, selling Japanese Jazz reissue pressings to Europe. I don't know anything about the industry but, would you please help us to buy your records at a wholesale price and resell them?
The person in charge laughed and told Mr.Sawano,
What? you have no business yet and asking us to do business with you? Haha, you are a honest man. I like the way you don't hide anything.
Miraculously, he got a contact that day with one of the biggest music companies, Victor Music Japan! He then went on to King Record, Warner Pioneer, Nippon Columbia and so on. Finally, he got the contracts with almost all major companies!
They are the pioneer of introducing Japanese Jazz reissue pressings outside of Japan!
In all of 80's their approach to sell those Japanese pressings in Europe was well accepted and they sold many copies.
But when it comes to the 90's, the vinyl records were not selling good due to CDs becoming popular. They were in trouble, and looking for a new opportunity. They decided to produce, record and promote, unknown Jazz musicians in Europe and sell those original CDs in Japan. Miraculously, some of the major music shops liked those CDs and put them at their stores. That is the time, Sawano's name was beginning to be known by Jazz collectors in Japan. They released some CDs and they were selling good for some years BUT! another trial came in the late 90's.
Some major music shops that Mr.Sawano had a contract with went bankrupt...they were in trouble again...After contemplating, they decided to promote and sell their CDs BY THEMSELVES. That is the start of
Sawano Kobo in 1999.
After some ups and downs, within a couple of years, Sawano Kobo was able to acquire many hot, passionate fans all over Japan, and later on, all over world!! Whatever Mr.Sawano produces and releases, all CDs and LPs are sold out in a short period of time!
What makes Sawano's Jazz different and attracting?
Well...the answer is simple.
Even if he is not a sound engineer, his love of Jazz, that passion, energy is engraved into all his records and CDs. He is really strict and cares everything into details, in sound as well as the material of vinyl, the sleeve and even designs.
He never sells his music for money, but for his followers to become happy.
Now, in his early 70's and his brother late 60's, the pair still searches for new great Jazz musicians and put them on record.
Fascinating story – you are correct, like me, I suspect many people in EU are not aware of Sawano Kobo. So pleased to have one the auction for the Reece LP.
Tom, thanks for your great comment! I bet you will love it!