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Studio - Wednesday 21 Aug 2019, 20:30

Sophie Huber’s revelatory, thrilling and emotional journey behind the scenes of Blue Note Records, the pioneering label that gave voice to some of the finest jazz artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, the iconic label most associated with mid-20th-century bebop jazz.

Co-founded in 1939 by German-Jewish immigrants Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, Blue Note became a home for artists such as Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter (the last two are interviewed here). The label also issued key work by Miles Davis, Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane among others who largely recorded elsewhere. Although clearly officially sanctioned by the label’s current owners (Blue Note is now distributed by Decca), this doesn’t feel like a slick, bland exercise in self-promotion. Instead, Huber crafts a respectful, crisply told but depth-plumbing history of the label, drawing from original recordings, vintage audio of studio chatter, and talking heads interviews. What makes this especially cinematic are the lashings of rostrum shots of Wolff’s candid black-and-white photographs, including many rare shots from the archive’s contact prints, as well as deserved attention given to graphic artist Reid Miles’s striking cover art, an essential contribution to the company’s image. Even more importantly, those interviewed, especially sound engineer from back-in-the-day Rudy Van Gelder, and the label’s current president, artist-producer Don Was, take pains to outline what made Blue Note sound so distinctive and coherent, given how diverse those talents were. Superb!

Switzerland 2018 Sophie Huber 85m

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