Blue Note Records

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Blue Note Records
Logo of the label
Logo of the label
Active years since 1939
Seat United States
Label code LC 0133
Sub-label Blue Note Classic
Genre (s) Modern jazz ( bebop , modal jazz , hard bop , soul jazz )

Blue Note Records is a record label for jazz music that was founded in New York in 1939 by the German refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff .

The name is derived from the characteristic " blue notes " of jazz and blues music .


Alfred Lion had already listened to jazz in his home town Berlin at a young age . He had to flee Germany from the National Socialists in 1937 because he was Jewish. He came to New York. There, Lion recorded a one-day session with Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis in a rented studio in 1939 . The Blue Note label originally consisted of Lion and Max Margulis , a writer who provided funding. The first releases were traditional “ hot jazz ” and boogie-woogie . The label's first hit was the recording "Summertime" with Sidney Bechet . It often happened that the musicians made their recordings in the early hours of the morning after they had finished their "day job" in the nightclubs and bars and were sometimes supplied with alcoholic beverages. The musicians were always treated well by the producers. They could record at any time and they had a huge impact on every step of the record making. They were later paid for their probationary periods as well.

Francis Wolff was a German professional photographer . At the end of 1939, he fled the National Socialists to the United States . There he met his childhood friend Alfred Lion again, whom he soon joined. In 1941, Lion was called up for two years in the army. It wasn't until the end of 1943 that the company was fully back in business, making new recordings and supplying the army with records. Wolff's photographs went down in the history of style in record cover design.

Linked to the company's very successful history is the development of jazz and the replacement of old shellac records with modern vinyl .

At the end of the war, Ike Quebec was also one of the people who made recordings for Blue Note. However, he was also a talent scout until his death in 1963. Even if he was an older generation, he recognized and appreciated the new style of bebop played by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

Blue Note was one of the most renowned jazz labels in the 1950s and 60s and released a large number of influential, style-defining jazz albums, mostly by very talented musicians of the time. They include jazz legends like Bud Powell , Miles Davis , John Coltrane , Ornette Coleman, and Thelonious Monk . Blue Note was known for the high artistic level and the excellent sound quality of the published recordings. Most of the classic recordings on Blue Note were made by the sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder in his own recording studio . The careers of numerous well-known jazz musicians such as Horace Silver , Herbie Hancock , Art Blakey , Stanley Turrentine , Jimmy Smith , Wayne Shorter , Lou Donaldson and others. a. is inextricably linked with the name Blue Note.

Blue Note's first 10 "vinyl LP was released in 1952, Milt Jackson's Wizard of the Vibes album (with Thelonious Monk on piano). The label soon picked up new talents such as Horace Silver, the Jazz Messengers, or Art Blakeys band Clifford Brown , Rudy Van Gelder worked as a sound engineer for Blue Note from 1953 until the late sixties and was in great demand with other labels as well, until the end of which he was busy re-mastering his old recordings the late 1940s, first by Paul Bacon designed Julian Albert and John Herman vein. Great influence then had the 1956 by designer Reid Miles harmoniously asymmetrically designed album covers, which at first were only printed in three colors. He worked with the impressive, mostly by Francis Wolff took black-and-white photographs and used them sometimes in full format, sometimes in a narrow rectangle drawn to the edge of the cover, sometimes inserted into the typography in small sizes. He liked to use strict sans serif fonts . Sometimes he enlarged individual letters, sometimes he added patterns, blocks or stripes. The design was always clear, balanced, structured and often surprising due to a formal or typographic kick. Some Blue Note covers in the mid-1950s also showed the drawings of an artist named Andy Warhol, who was hardly known at the time . Reid Miles set the tone, his Blue Note covers are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

The motto of Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff is still legendary today, with which they told the musicians in English with a strong German accent during the recording sessions how a real jazz song should sound for the two label owners: "It must swing!".

The concept of Blue Note consisted in the presentation of ad hoc groups, whose members were usually employed in other "working bands" or "freelancers". The exceptions were Horace Silver (Horace Silver Quintet) and Art Blakey (Jazz Messengers).

In 1965 Lion and Wolff sold the Blue Note to the record company Liberty. Lion retired two years later and Wolff died in 1971. Liberty was sold to United Artists in 1969, which in turn was bought in 1979 by EMI , which discontinued Blue Note at the same time. The Blue Note catalog and name have been owned by Capitol Records since 1985 . Blue Note was founded in 1985. Head was Bruce Lundvall . Old artists like McCoy Tyner made new recordings, and young musicians like Joe Lovano or Greg Osby could earn a great reputation with Blue Note. The label had great commercial success with Norah Jones and established artists such as Van Morrison , Al Green and Anita Baker joined Blue Note.

In 1997 the musical documentary Blue Note - A Story of Modern Jazz by Julian Benedikt was released .

In 2000 the CD Scales, Grounded by the brothers Martin Scales and Patrick Scales was released as one of the few productions by German musicians on Blue Note Records. Since 2007 the albums of the German entertainer Götz Alsmann have been released on the label.

On March 25, 2014, the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles opened an exhibition called Blue Note Records: The Finest In Jazz .

In 2018 the two films Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes by Sophie Huber and It Must Schwing - The Blue Note Story by Eric Friedler were released .

Jazz collections

The following collections from the Blue Note catalog have been published by Mosaic Records since 1983 :



  • Richard Havers: Blue Note. The Finest in Jazz , Sieveking Verlag, Munich October 2014, ISBN 978-3-944874-07-4 .
  • Frederick Cohen: Blue Note Records. A Guide for Identifying Original Pressings . Jazz Record Center, New York 2010, ISBN 978-0-692-00322-0 .
  • Richard Cook : Blue Note. The biography. Argon Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-87024-599-9 .
  • Graham Marsh, Glyn Collingham: Blue Note. Album Cover Art. Chronicle Books, San Francisco 2002, ISBN 0-8118-3688-6 .
  • Michael Cuscuna , Charlie Lourie, Oscar Schnider: The Blue Note Years. Francis Wolff's jazz photography. Edition Stemmle, Kilchberg / Zurich 1995, ISBN 3-905514-89-3 . (With a foreword by Herbie Hancock; transl. From the American: Wolfgang Schulz)
  • Francis Wolff & Jimmy Katz: Blue Note Photography. jazzprezzo, Bad Oeynhausen 2009, ISBN 978-3-9810250-8-8 . (Ed. By Rainer Placke and Ingo Wulff)

Web links

Commons : Blue Note Records  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Natalie Weiner: Blue Note's High Notes: The Jazz Label Celebrates 80 Years on Billboard (accessed March 29, 2019)
  2. See artist page G. Alsmann at roofmusic: Archive link ( Memento from August 3, 2012 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on October 3, 2011.
  3. 2014: The Year in Jazz , All About Jazz, January 5, 2015, accessed January 6, 2015
  4. a b Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes , accessed November 17, 2018
  5. a b It Must Schwing - The Blue Note Story , accessed November 17, 2018
  6. Blue Note - A Story of Modern Jazz Review at
  7. A film about friendship, love and jazz , on NDR -Online from June 28, 2018.