Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

About the Film


BLUE NOTE RECORDS: BEYOND THE NOTES explores the unique vision behind the iconic jazz record label. Through rare archival footage, current recording sessions and conversations with Blue Note artists, the film reveals a powerful mission and illuminates the vital connections between jazz and hip hop.

One of the most important record labels in the history of jazz — and, by extension, that of American music — Blue Note Records has been home to such groundbreaking artists as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Bud Powell and Art Blakey, as well as present-day luminaries like Robert Glasper, Ambrose Akinmusire and Norah Jones. Founded in New York in 1939 by German Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, the history of Blue Note Records goes beyond the landmark recordings, encompassing the pursuit of musical freedom, the conflict between art and commerce and the idea of music as a transformative and revolutionary force. Through rare archival footage, current recording sessions and conversations with jazz icons Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and today’s groundbreaking Blue Note musicians, BLUE NOTE RECORDS: BEYOND THE NOTES reveals a powerful mission and illuminates the vital connections between jazz and hip hop.


Ambrose Akinmusire

Ambrose Akinmusire

Trumpet / on Blue Note since 2011

"The thing that attracts me to a musician is the fact that they are an artist. It’s the changing, it’s the evolution, it’s the willingness to throw everything out of the window in search of something new."

Michael Cuscuna

Michael Cuscuna

Producer, Historian, Owner of Francis Wolff Photo Collection

"Through the years, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff developed a lot of very, very strong friendships among the musicians. I remember Bobby Hutcherson saying, they never seemed like outsiders, they didn’t play an instrument and they had heavy German accents, but they were just one of us."

Lou Donaldson

Lou Donaldson

Saxophone / on Blue Note from 1952 to 1974

“Without Blue Note you probably would have never heard of Monk. Cause the big companies, they wouldn't record Monk. He was around - they wouldn't record him. But Alfred (Lion) did.”

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

Piano / on Blue Note since 2003

“Most of the great art comes out of messed up situations. You just need something to, you know, to be released from that, you know what I mean, to go somewhere. That’s where jazz is born out of. Hip hop was born out of that. So that’s what we have to still do today.”

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock

Piano / on Blue Note from 1962 to 1969

"What they were searching for was to get the heart of the individuals creating the music to have a platform for expression. And that heart is affected by the times. Because we were living in it."

Derrick Hodge

Derrick Hodge

Bass / on Blue Note since 2013

"Never at a point do I hear the music and hear them being defeated. Somehow, regardless of whatever they were fighting with, they’re going down in history creating something that influenced my life in a way where I felt freedom. Where it brought me joy, where it made me wanna write music that gave people hope."

Norah Jones

Norah Jones

Vocals, Piano/ on Blue Note since 2001

"The reason I love being on this label is because I’ve always felt like I had that freedom – to make my own music and do whatever I want and I don’t feel confined by the restrictions of the jazz genre."

Keith Lewis

Keith Lewis

Sound Engineer

"Jazz is starting to reach back to the younger audiences and I feel like Rob [Robert Glasper] is a big part of that. Because of his ability to incorporate hip hop."

Lionel Loueke

Lionel Loueke

Guitar / on Blue Note since 2008

"I have no idea how I’m gonna start and how I’m gonna finish this. Completely open. I think that’s the beauty of this music. Getting in the unknown zone."

Terrace Martin

Terrace Martin

Musician, Hip Hop Producer

"Blue Note is the past, present and the future. It’s always doing something different, it’s always turning on the next generation to something that could change their life."

Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Ali Shaheed Muhammad

A Tribe Called Quest

"Blue Note Records became the go to. What we were discovering is that the jazz records had a lot of open break sections, a lot of solo sections. And not only for the drummer, but for all of the players. They had their moments and I think that was the beauty of discovering jazz."

Kendrick Scott

Kendrick Scott

Drums / on Blue Note since 2005

"Being an African-American, the music itself was a special statement and it is a special statement. To me jazz represents um freedom in two different kind of ways. You can be an individual inside of the music, but still helping with the whole."

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Saxophone / on Blue Note since 1964

"When we were in the studio at that time, in the 60s, we questioned whether or not what we were doing would be heard, what effect would it have 20 years from then? Will it do anything in the world, will it create some kind of value? The kind of value you can’t put a price on."

Marcus Strickland

Marcus Strickland

Sax, on Blue Note since 2015

"A lot of this music has to do with how we feel about America and how we came from seeming to progress to going back to an era that we fought to get away from. A lot of that feeling, that kind of frustration, is in the music along with all the hopeful stuff. The music is only a tool to express what’s inside."

Rudy Van Gelder

Rudy Van Gelder

Sound engineer

"It was my parents’ home, and I was allowed to use the living room to record my jazz music. They allowed me to put a control room window in one of the walls to the living room. And I brought all the equipment in there to record my jazz music."

Don Was

Don Was

Producer, President Blue Note Records

"If I really am experiencing something difficult uh I’ll put on Speak No Evil and that’s as good as meditation. A neurologist would probably not be able to find the difference between meditation and focusing on Speak No Evil. And I always feel better, always feel refreshed, always remember who I am. That’s – that’s a pretty amazing service to provide for people."



The Swiss filmmaker Sophie Huber gained her filmmaking experience as a member of an award winning Berlin film collective, for which she co-directed several films before directing her debut feature documentary, the critically acclaimed HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTION, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2012. BLUE NOTE RECORD: BEYOND THE NOTES is Sophie’s second documentary.


Deutscher Dokumentarfilmpreis

Musikpreis der Opus GmbH

IFF Zurich, sponsored by IWC Schaffhausen

Production Award

Pan African-American Film Festival for the Arts

Programmers' Award Documentary

Richmond International Film Festival

2019 Tribute Award: Outstanding Achievement in Film


With (In Alphabetical Order)      

Ambrose Akinmusire

Michael Cuscuna

Lou Donaldson

Robert Glasper

Herbie Hancock

Derrick Hodge

Norah Jones

Keith Lewis

Lionel Loueke

Terrace Martin

Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Kendrick Scott

Wayne Shorter

Marcus Strickland

Rudy Van Gelder

Don Was


Sophie Huber

Director Of Photography              

Shane Sigler

Patrick Lindenmaier


Russell Greene


Hercli Bundi

Chiemi Karasawa

Susanne Guggenberger

Sophie Huber

Executive Producers                                  

Geoffrey Kempin

Terry Shand

Anke Beining-Wellhausen

Associate Producer                        

Vadim Jendreyko


Mira Film

In Association with

Eagle Rock Entertainment

Isotope Films

Final Cut USA

BBC Music

In Coproduction with

Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen

Radio Télévision Suisse, SRG SSR


With Financial Support From    

Zürcher Filmstiftung

Media Desk Suisse

UBS Culture Foundation

Verein zur Filmförderung in der Schweiz – IWC Filmmaker Award

Stiftung Kulturfonds Suissimage

Succès Passage Antenne

Ernst Göhner Stiftung and Stage Pool Focal

Additional Editor                          

Chris Amos

Additional Editor/TV Version      

Simon Gutknecht

Production Sound                        

Eric Bautista

Matt Betlej

Julian Howarth

Jae Kim

Caleb Mose

Matthew Patterson-Curry

Ted Robinson

Additional Photography              

Larkin Donley

Luke Geissbuhler

Wyatt Troll

B-Camera Operator                        

Jake Magee


Colby Dunford

Guillaume Caron

Camera Assistants                          

Jesse Cain

Ryan Gudzial

Kevin Jacobsen

David Okolo

Fabian Perez

Conrad Radzik

Megeara Stephens

DIT /Media Manager                    

Myles David Jewell

Colin Marchon

Jesse Tyler

Assistant Editors                          

Alex Bayer

Lisa Gertsch

Jenna Hill

Noemi Schneider

Elijah Stevens

Archival Producer                        

Laura Coxson

Archivist For Francis Wolff Photo Collection                            

Lisa Cuscuna

Digital Intermediate                                

Andromeda Film AG, Zürich


Patrick Lindenmaier

Conform Editor                              

Pedro Nuñez

Motion Graphics                            

Davide Legittimo

Postproduction Coordinator Andromeda                                

Thomas Krempke

Post Production Services              

Final Cut USA, Inc.


Sophia Murer/Peakfein

Teddy Blanks/Chips


Diagonal Gmbh

Sound Studios

Igloo Music

Deluxe Studios

Sound Design Studios AG

Sound Design                                            

Peter von Siebenthal

Re-Recording Mixer                      

Nicholai Baxter CAS

Carlos Solis CAS

Additional Re-Recording Mixers  

Felix Bussmann

Denis Séchaud

Post-Production Supervisor          

Kathrin Schmid

Office Management Mira Film    

Nadine F. Forster

Production Coordinator/Isotope Films              

Sheila Lobo

Production Insurance                    

Reiff & Associates

Legal Services                                

Stacey Smith/Cinepointe

Kai-Peter Uhlig/Werder-Viganõ

Clearance Counsel                        

Chris Perez/Donaldson + Callif LLP

Production Accountant                  

Ryan Pattie

Tatiana Secura

Helena Gräumann

For Eagle Rock Entertainment      

Legal & Clearances

Rochelle Winn

Charlotte Godfrey

Gabi Huckins

Production Manager                                  

Rosie Holley

Supervising Producers                  

Peter Worsley

Will White


Samantha Baugh

Aaron Champagne

Katelyn Fournier

Mona Johnson

Bill Karim

Daniela Lott

Richard Macris

Isidora Manojlovic

Sidhant Tilokani

Technical Details







Aspect Ratio






Original Language



German, French, Italian


Switzerland, USA