Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes
MAD | Music/Art/Design
If one came of age when vinyl was still king in the music industry, the striking—often stunning—album covers produced by Blue Note Records couldn’t help but capture one’s attention. How many people, fascinated by the cover art, bought the record without knowing what was inside and were thus turned on to some of jazz music’s greatest artists? Founded in New York in 1939 by German refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff (with funding from communist writer Max Margulis), Blue Note became the congenial home to the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell and so many others—the list of stars who recorded for the label is, frankly, astounding. Lion and Wolff were true fans, and they were willing to cater to the artists in any way the artists wanted, just so the duo could capture the music as it was meant to be heard, without compromise. There is also one other reason: race was never an issue with Lion and Wolff, whereas the other labels were, in the memorable words of saxophonist Lou Donaldson, "cheap, cheap, white."
Sophie Huber’s musical celebration of Blue Note’s history includes interviews with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, current Blue Note president Don Was, and others, as well as a recording session with star Robert Glasper. Also given just and proper consideration is a history of the aforementioned stunning LP cover art, most of which featured the graphic artistry of Reid Miles and the gorgeous photography of co-founder Wolff.
VIFF dedicates these screenings to the memory of Kevin Mooney and Ken Pickering.