Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression Part 1: The Book

This lavish doorstop is a beautiful testament to the everlasting impact that Blue Note Records have had on American (and world) culture. It begins as a rags to riches story of two men, Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion, who fled Germany to escape the Holocaust and fascism and moved to America to found one of the most iconic of all record labels. They started out on a shoestring, recording the "hot jazz" they loved, like the boogie-woogie pianists Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. The book follows the company as they make their tentative steps into bebop, recording Thelonious Monk and Fats Novarro. The meat of the book covers the company's glory years, roughly 1950 - 1970. The book is filled with rampant boosterism, but rightly so, during this period the titans of modern jazz and modern American music as a whole recorded for them. It's a who's who of greats: Monk, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Sam Rivers, Art Blakey, Grant Green and so many more. The distinctive nature of Blue Note is examined further, looking into the simpatico relationship of Wolff's photography and Reid Miles design techniques which created genuine works of art above and beyond the music. But it couldn't last, as times change and the record buying public turned to rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues, Blue Note was sold to Liberty Records and finally Capitol. There were some good records made in the mid-1970's but they became fewer and farther between before the label lay dormant. There have been sporadic attempts to revive the label with massive reissue campaigns of classic LP's on CD and infusions of new talent. Today the label's roster is a precarious mix of accessible singers and modern instrumental jazz musicians. So the story of Blue Note is told in a continuous narrative, broken into sections that are followed by spotlights on the key albums from that period. It is here that the book really shines with crisp and clear reproductions of Wolff's photographs and contact sheets and gorgeous reproductions of the album covers. This is a very classy book and is highly recommended for fans of the Blue Note label. Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression -

Send comments to Tim.