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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Blue Note Records Celebrates 85th Anniversary The Finest In Jazz Since 1939


By Stevie Connor.



85 years ago on January 6, 1939, a German-Jewish immigrant and passionate Jazz fan named Alfred Lion produced his first recording session in New York City founding what would go on to become the most iconic and longest-running Jazz label in the world. For 85 years Blue Note Records has represented The Finest In Jazz, tracing the entire history of the music from Hot Jazz, Boogie Woogie, and Swing, through Bebop, Hard Bop, Post-Bop, Soul Jazz, Avant-Garde, and Fusion, and — after being relaunched by Bruce Lundvall in 1984—has remained the leading label dedicated to documenting today’s vibrant and creatively thriving Jazz scene under the leadership of current President Don Was, who took the helm in 2012.

 

Don Was explains, "Throughout 2024 we’ll be celebrating the 85th Anniversary of Blue Note Records including an extensive tour by The Blue Note Quintet featuring the label’s young stars, The Francis Wolff Collection presenting fine art photography collector’s items and exhibitions, the return of the Blue Note Review vinyl boxset subscription series, our acclaimed Tone Poet Vinyl and Classic Vinyl reissue series, and exciting new releases from Charles Lloyd, Joel Ross, Melissa Aldana, Ethan Iverson, Julian Lage, Bill Frisell, Nduduzo Makhathini, Immanuel Wilkins, Meshell Ndegeocello, Norah Jones, and more.

 

  • The Blue Note Quintet - 85th Anniversary Tour: An all-star collective comprised of Blue Note recording artists pianist and musical director Gerald Clayton, alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, and drummer Kendrick Scott, as well as bassist Matt Brewer will embark on an extensive 35-date North American tour which kicks off January 18 and brings the band across the entirety of the U.S. with shows in Detroit (Majestic Theater, Jan. 19), Los Angeles (Lodge Room, Feb. 4), Chicago (Symphony Center, Feb. 16), New York (Symphony Space, Feb. 23), and more. Visit bluenote.com for a full list of dates and ticket info.

 

  • The Francis Wolff Collection: Our new series of limited-edition fine art photography collector’s pieces celebrates the legacy of Blue Note co-founder and photographer Francis Wolff as well as the musicians he loved. The series launched with a collection of one-of-a-kind pieces featuring Wolff’s iconic photographs of the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane at the 1957 recording session for his masterpiece Blue Train and will continue this year with additional releases. In recent decades, thanks to the tireless dedication of the collection’s longtime caretaker Michael Cuscuna of Mosaic Images, Wolff’s photos have begun to be recognized as works of art. With the collection now owned once again by Blue Note, the label is working to preserve and reveal even more of this remarkable archive which includes more than 20,000 black & white and color images taken between 1940-1970. Stay tuned for news about exhibitions of Wolff’s photography as well!

 

  • Canvas Wall Art of Classic Blue Note Album Covers: We’ve expanded our offerings of archival-quality, framed canvas prints in dynamic scale featuring the legendary album cover designs of Reid Miles. New designs include Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Indestructible, Hank Mobley Soul Station, Grant Green Idle Moments, Dexter Gordon A Swingin’ Affair, Lee Morgan Cornbread, Larry Young Unity, Andrew Hill Black Fire, and more.

 

  • Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series: The acclaimed series is produced by the “Tone Poet” Joe Harley and features definitive all-analog, 180g audiophile vinyl reissues that are mastered from the original master tapes by Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio, manufactured at RTI, and packaged in deluxe gatefold tip-on jackets. The titles featured in the series are handpicked by Harley and include acknowledged treasures of the Blue Note catalog as well as underrated classics, modern era standouts, and albums from other labels under the Blue Note umbrella including Pacific Jazz, United Artists, and Transition. The 2024 line-up can be found at bluenote.com, and stay tuned for the announcement of a special Tone Poet Vinyl Edition of Sonny Rollins’ 1957 tour de force live trio album A Night at the Village Vanguard.

 

  • Classic Vinyl Reissue Series: Curated by Don Was and Cem Kurosman, the series is an exploration of the extensive Blue Note catalog with titles that span the many eras and styles of the legendary label’s storied history. The series presents 180g all-analog vinyl reissues in standard packaging that are mastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes and manufactured at Optimal. The current run of titles presents some of the most iconic Blue Note masterpieces by Jazz legends including Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Jimmy Smith, Donald Byrd, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, and more.

 

  • The Return of Blue Note Review: Our vinyl boxset subscription series returns this year with the release of the long-awaited Volume Three which celebrates the legacy of trumpeter Lee Morgan. Curated by Don Was, the series encapsulates the continuum of the legendary Jazz label’s storied past and auspicious future with an exclusive collection of new recordings and timeless treasures from the Blue Note vaults accompanied by unique physical items and writings that capture the enduringly hip Blue Note aesthetic. Blue Note Review: Volume Two – Spirit & Time is still available at bluenotereview.com.

 

  • VMP Anthology: The Story of Blue Note Records: The first-ever release in the acclaimed Vinyl Me, Please Anthology series was a six-album 7-LP boxset that celebrated the legacy of Blue Note Records and took listeners on an immersive journey into the label’s history. The first run of the limited edition set sold out in minutes when it was released in 2019 but will get a 2nd pressing this year. Sign up here to get more details.

 

  • Blue Note Store 85th Anniversary Sale + Rewards Program: We’ve kicked off our 85th Anniversary Sale on the Blue Note Store and also launched a brand-new Clubhouse Rewards program which extends special offers to our most loyal customers. The Blue Note Store is the premiere online destination for all things Blue Note such as new releases, vinyl reissues, and exclusive merchandise including apparel, accessories, drinkware, and home decor.

 

 

It took the joining of many natural forces to create and define one of the greatest Jazz labels there has ever been: Jazz-loving German immigrants on the run from Nazism (Alfred Lion & Francis Wolff), a New Jersey optometrist moonlighting as a recording engineer (Rudy Van Gelder), a classical music-loving commercial designer (Reid Miles), and the most incredible musicians that have ever walked the earth. The elements that each brought to the table —boundless passion and impeccable A&R instincts, elegant and insightful photography, sterling sound quality, strikingly original cover artwork, and consistently transcendent music— were all essential to the label's early success. Together they created a vivid Blue Note aesthetic. The whole could not have existed without each of the parts.

 

Blue Note’s legendary catalog spans the entire history of the music from Hot Jazz, Boogie Woogie, and Swing, through Bebop, Hard Bop, Post-Bop, Soul Jazz, Avant-Garde, and Fusion, and into the diverse and vibrant sounds of today. The artists Blue Note recorded represent the pillars of Jazz history: Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Jimmy Smith, Dexter Gordon, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and many more.

 

After a brief dormancy from 1981-1984 during which producer/historian Michael Cuscuna kept the label’s legacy alive with a series of reissues, Blue Note returned reinvigorated by the leadership of Bruce Lundvall and has since established itself as the most-respected and longest-running Jazz label in the world, remaining home to some of the most prominent stars and cutting-edge innovators in Jazz. During Lundvall’s 30-year tenure, Blue Note remained a haven for the most creative voices in Jazz, and also had its share of commercial successes from Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Us3, Norah Jones, Medeski Martin & Wood, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis.

 

The consummate music man Don Was joined Blue Note in 2011 as Chief Creative Officer and became President of the label in 2012. With Was at the helm, Blue Note has renewed its dedication to Lion’s original vision that “any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression.” Lion’s words still ring true and provide a blueprint that includes eclectic singers from Norah Jones to Meshell Ndegeocello to Gregory Porter and the full spectrum of instrumental Jazz artists from legends like Charles Lloyd, Ronnie Foster, Bill Frisell, and Joshua Redman to young innovators including Immanuel Wilkins, Joel Ross, Melissa Aldana, Julian Lage, and DOMi & JD BECK. Blue Note Records is one of the flagship labels of the Capitol Music Group and Universal Music Group.




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