Jazz fans will love this: for its 75th anniversary, world famous jazz label Blue Note has decided to launch a massive Vinyl Initiative (that is, reissuing their entire music catalogue in high definition).

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Anything Blue review – Happy Jazzy Birthday, Blue Notes
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Old jazz in new def? Yes please! Don Was, the president of the label, says it himself: ‘the new remasters are really cool’!

For those less familiar with the label that features ‘the finest jazz since 1939’, you can read below the article from author and jazz critic Brian Morton.

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‘From humble beginnings in New York, Blue Note became famous not only as a purveyor of genre-defining recordings but also as an arbiter of cool, thanks to its distinctive photography and sleeve designs, many of which are collected in a deluxe new illustrated book, Uncompromising Expression.’

 

The Blue Note founders and the Pete Johnson Blues Trio: (left to right) Max Margulis, Pete Johnson, Abe Bolar, Alfred Lion, Ulysses Livingston. Photo taken by Francis Wolff 1939. Courtesy of the family of Max Margulis

The Blue Note founders and the Pete Johnson Blues Trio: (left to right) Max Margulis, Pete Johnson, Abe Bolar, Alfred Lion, Ulysses Livingston. Photo taken by Francis Wolff 1939. Courtesy of the family of Max Margulis

 

Everyone tends to forget that Blue Note actually began without much artistic pretension and as a producer of funky, jukebox jazz of the old school.

The label, famously, was founded by German immigrant Alfred Lion, who’d come to the US in 1937 as a young fan (jazz was the pull factor, Hitler and recession were the pushes), experienced John Hammond’s epochal From Spirituals To Swing concert at Carnegie Hall, and decided with his friend Max Margulis to record hot Harlem jazz in the boogie-woogie style.

The first Blue Note recordings were of pianists Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons, who were already borderline old-hat in 1939. Lion and Margulis were soon joined by photographer Frank Wolff (two f’s) and by designer Reid Miles, who by not caring very much about jazz helped to establish its most memorable imagery.

Together they survived military conscription, wartime distortions of the market, a union ban and the implacable economics of jazz recording, and were on hand to capture the new, hard language of bebop.

Having drummer Art Blakey, soulful pianist Horace Silver and that eternal enigma Thelonious Monk on the strength gave Blue Note critical impetus. And having a saxophonist Ike Quebec, albeit himself a player of more mainstream persuasion, as musical director and A&R man, gave the recording programme focus and direction.

Between 1945 and 1965 Blue Note represented the leading curve of East Coast jazz. Having recorded the veteran Sidney Bechet, the first mature jazz soloist in the modern sense, the label now addressed itself to a new creative confidence and self-determination in African-American music.

 

Blue Note @BBC - Anything Blue

Photos taken during Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder session, 21 December 1963. Photo by Francis Wolff © 2014 Mosaic Images

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Blue Note survives all revisionist attempts. Its finest productions are among the best-loved in American music. Its covers are a genre. Even studio sweepings are treasured.

At a time when the music business was increasingly dominated by the rock album, Blue Note was taken over by Liberty, only returning as a semi-independent imprint in 1985, with a surge of new jazz recording, led by pianist Michel Petrucciani and the once-fashionable but long-eclipsed Charles Lloyd, who had once played modern jazz to hippy audiences at the Fillmores.

Blue Note went through awkward moments, dabbling with acid jazz and dance-oriented concepts, but jazz’s market status is more stable again, and under Was the imprint can again enjoy not just the view of its own eminent past but the road ahead as well.

Read more of Brian Morton’s article ‘Blue Note at 75: All that jazz’ @BBC