Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

The legacy of Blue Note Records

Blue Note

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 slews of the most incredible musicians that have ever walked the earth. The elements that each brought to the table—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 traces 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. Blue Note’s legendary catalog includes a true Who’s Who 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, Ornette Coleman, 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 on EMI, 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 while at the same time broadening its horizons to include quality music in many genres. Under Lundvall’s leadership, 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, Al Green, Amos Lee, Medeski Martin & Wood, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis.

In 2011, veteran record producer and musician Don Was joined Blue Note as Chief Creative Officer and soon became President of the label with Lundvall continuing to provide guidance as Chairman Emeritus. 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.” In the 21st century Lion’s words still ring true and provide a blueprint that includes Robert Glasper’s visionary melding of Jazz, R&B, and Hip-Hop; eclectic singers from Norah Jones to Gregory Porter to Kandace Springs; and the full spectrum of jazz artists including legends like Wayne Shorter and Charles Lloyd and rising stars such as Ambrose Akinmusire and James Francies. Blue Note Records is one of the flagship labels of the Capitol Music Group.

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