The Impossibly Cool Album Covers of Blue Note Records: Meet the Creative Team Behind These Iconic Designs

If you stepped into a record store in the 1950s and 60s, you would likely be drawn almost immediately to a Blue Note release—whether or not you were a fan of jazz or had heard of the artist or even the label. “If you went to those record stores,” says Estelle Caswell in the Vox Earworm video above, “it probably wasn’t the sound of Blue Note that immediately caught your attention. It was their album covers.”

Now those designs are hallowed jazz iconography, with their “bold typography, two tone photography, and minimal graphic design.” Of course, it should go without saying that the sound of Blue Note is as distinctive and essential as its look, thanks to its founders’ musical vision, the faultless ear of producer and engineer Rudy Van Gelder, and the roster of unbelievably great musicians the label recruited and recorded.

But back to those covers….

“Their bold use of color, intimate photography, and meticulously placed typography came to define the look of jazz” in the hard bop era, and thus, defined the look of cool, a “refined sophistication” vibrating with restless, sultry, smoky, classy, moody energy. The rat pack had nothing on Blue Note. Their covers “have today become an epitome of graphic hip,” writes Robin Kinross at Eye magazine. (And lest we fetishize the covers at the expense of their contents, Kinross makes sure to add that they “are no more than the visible manifestation of an organic whole.”)

Flip over any one of those beautifully-designed Blue Note records from, say, 1955 to 65, the label’s peak years, and you’ll find two names credited for almost all of their designs: photographer Francis Wolff and graphic designer Reid Miles. Wolff, says producer and Blue Note archivist Michael Cuscuna in the Earworm video, shot almost every Blue Note session from “the minute he arrived.”

“One of the most impressive, and shocking things” about Wolff’s photo shoots, “was that the average success rate of those photos was really extraordinary. He was like the jazz artist of photography in that he could nail it immediately.” Once Wolff filled a contact sheet with great shots, it next came to Miles to select the perfect one—and the perfect crop—for the album cover. These saturated portraits turned Blue Note artists into immortal heroes of hip.

But Reid’s experiments with typography, “inspired by the ever present Swiss lettering style that defined 20th century graphic design,” notes Vox, provided such an important element that the lettering sometimes edged out the photography, such as in the cover of Joe Henderson’s In ‘n Out, which features only a tiny portrait of the artist in the upper left-hand corner, nestled in the dot of a lower-case “i.”

Miles pushed the exclamation point to absurd lengths on Jackie McLean’s It’s Time, which again relegates the artist’s photo to a tiny square in the corner while the rest of the cover is taken up with bold, black “!!!!!!!!!!!”s over a white background. It’s “startlingly getting your attention,” Cuscuna comments. On Lou Donaldson’s Sunny Side Up, Miles dispenses with photography altogether, for a striking black and white design that makes the title seem like it might up and float away.

But Miles' type-centric covers, though excellent, are not what we usually associate with the classic Blue Note look. The synthesis of Wolff’s impeccable photographic instincts and Miles’ surgically keen eye for framing, color, and composition combined to give us the pensive, mysterious Coltrane on Blue Train, the impossibly cool Sonny Rollins on the cover of Newk’s Time, the totally, wildly in-the-moment Art Blakey on The Big Beat, and so, so many more.

Reid Miles had the rare talent only the best art directors possess, says Cuscuna: the ability to “create a look for a record that was highly individual but also that fit into a stream that gave the label a look.” Learn more about his work with Wolff in Robin Kinross’s essay, see many more classic Blue Note album covers here, and make sure to listen to the music behind all that brilliant graphic design in this huge, streaming discography of Blue Note recordings.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Jazz Deconstructed: What Makes John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” So Groundbreaking and Radical?

John Coltrane bore an unusual burden. Many experimental artists who radically change their forms of music, and music in general, are so out on the edge and ahead of their time they elude the public’s notice. But Coltrane was responsible for both “furthering the cause” of free jazz and “delivering it to an increasingly mainstream audience,” as Lindsay Planer writes at Allmusic. This meant that he achieved the kind of recognition in his short life that most musician/composers only dream of, and that his every attempt was heavily scrutinized by critics, a listening public, and record companies not always ready for the most forward-thinking of his ideas.

His immense popularity makes Coltrane’s accomplishments all the more impressive. While 1959 is often cited as the “year that changed jazz” with a series of landmark albums, two releases by Coltrane in 1960—My Favorite Things and Giant Steps—completely radicalized the form, with repercussions far outside the jazz world. In the latter recording, writes Planer, Coltrane was “in essence, beginning to rewrite the jazz canon with material that would be centered on solos—the 180-degree antithesis of the art form up to that point. These arrangements would create a place for the solo to become infinitely more compelling,” culminating “in a frenetic performance style that noted jazz journalist Ira Gitler dubbed ‘sheets of sound.’”




The saxophonist’s “polytonal torrents” upend the “cordial solos that had begun decaying… the genre, turning it into the equivalent of easy listening.” There was nothing easy about keeping up with Coltrane. The title track of Giant Steps has become known for a rapid chord progression that cycles through three keys, built on an earlier technique known as the “Coltrane Changes.” Improvising over these chords has become “a rite of passage for jazz musicians” explains the Vox Earworm video above, making the tune "one of the most revered, and feared, compositions in jazz history.”

We can intuit the difficulty of Coltrane’s compositions by listening to them, but without a background in music theory, we won’t understand just what, exactly, makes them “so legendary.” Earworm’s “crash course” in theory from musicians Adam Neely and Braxton Cook demystifies Coltrane’s intimidating progression—so challenging it tied up pianist Tommy Flanagan during his solo, and his halting stabs can be heard on the record, followed by Coltrane’s astonishingly fluid cascade of notes. “That’s messed up,” says Braxton, in sympathy. “I would want another shot.” What, besides the maddeningly fast tempo, sent Flanagan into the weeds?

As with most music based in Western harmony, the song’s structure can be demonstrated by reference to the circle of fifths, a method of organizing notes and scales that Coltrane made his very own. His brilliance was in taking recognizable forms—the standard II-V-I jazz progression, for example—and pushing them to their absolute limit.

“There are 26 chord changes in the 16-bar theme of ‘Giant Steps,’” notes Jazzwise magazine in its history of the album. (Watch them all fly by in the animated sheet music above). The progression “provides a formidable challenge for the improvisor with its quickly changing key centres.” Coltrane himself, “handled patterns derived from pentatonic scales, transposed to fit each chord as it flew by, exceptionally well.”

Keep watching the Earworm video to find out how the “Giant Steps” progression is like a “musical M.C. Escher painting,” and to understand why Coltrane is considered a god, or at least a saint, by so many who have followed—or struggled to follow—his work.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

“A Great Day in Harlem,” Art Kane’s Iconic Photo of 57 Jazz Legends, Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary

Image by Art Kane, via Wikimedia Commons

Sixty years ago, Art Kane assembled one of the largest groups of jazz greats in history. No, it wasn’t an all-star big band, but a meeting of veteran legends and young upstarts for the iconic photograph known as “A Great Day in Harlem.” Fifty-seven musicians gathered outside a brownstone at 17 East 126th St.—accompanied by twelve neighborhood kids—from “big rollers,” notes Jazzwise magazine, like “Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins and Pee Wee Russell to then up-and-coming names, Benny Golson, Marion MacPartland, Mary Lou Williams and Art Farmer.”

Sonny Rollins was there, one of only two musicians in the photo still alive. The other, Benny Golson, who turns 90 next year, remembers getting a call from Village Voice critic Nat Hentoff, telling him to get over there. Golson lived in the same building as Quincy Jones, “but somehow he wasn’t called or he didn’t make it.”




Other people who might have been in the photograph but weren’t, Golson says, because they were working (and the 10 a.m. call time was a stretch for a working musician): “John Coltrane, Miles, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman.” And Buddy Rich, whom Golson calls the “greatest drummer I ever heard in my life” (adding, “but his personality was horrible.”)

The next year, everything changed—or so the story goes—when revolutionary albums hit the scene from the likes of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus. These records pushed experimental forms, leaving behind the confines of both swing and bebop. But Kane’s jazz class photo shows us, Matthew Kessel writes at Vulture, “a portrait of harmony, old and new guard alike peaceably intermingling. The photo suggests that jazz is as much about continuity and tradition as it is about radical change.” The photo has since become a tradition itself, hanging on the walls of thousands of homes, bookshops, record stores, barbershops, and restaurants. (Get your copy here.)

Originally titled "Harlem 1958,"  Kane's image has inspired some notable homages in black culture. In 1998, XXL magazine tapped Gordon Parks to shoot “A Great Day in Hip Hop” for a now-historic cover. And this past summer, Netflix gathered 47 black creatives behind more than 20 original Netflix shows for the redux “A Great Day in Hollywood.” The photo also inspired a documentary of the same title in 1994 (at whose website you can click on each musician for a short bio). At the Daily News, Sarah Goodyear tells the story of how Kane conceived and executed the ambitious project for a special jazz edition of Esquire.

It was his “first professional shooting assignment and, with it, he ended up making history by almost by accident.” Goodyear quotes Kane’s son Jonathan, himself a New York musician, who remarks, “certain things end up being bigger than the original intention. The photograph has become part of our cultural fabric.” For longtime residents of Harlem, the so-called Capital of Black America, and a spiritual home of jazz, it's just like an old family portrait. See a fully annotated version of "A Great Day in Harlem" at Harlem.org, and at the Daily News, an interactive version with links to YouTube recordings and performances from every one of the 57 musicians in the picture.




This month, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the photo, Wall of Sound Gallery will publish the book Art Kane: Harlem 1958, a retrospective with outtakes from the photo session and text from Quincy Jones, Benny Golson, Jonathan Kane, and Art himself. "The importance of this photo transcends time and location," writes Jones in his forward, "leaving it to become not only a symbolic piece of art, but a piece of history. During a time in which segregation was very much still a part of our everyday lives, and in a world that often pointed out our differences instead of celebrating our similarities, there was something so special and pure about gathering 57 individuals together, in the name of jazz."

  1. Hilton Jefferson (1903-1968)
  2. Benny Golson (1929-)
  3. Art Farmer (1928-2003)
  4. Wilbur Ware (1923-1979)
  5. Art Blakey (1919-1990)
  6. Chubby Jackson (1918-2003)
  7. Johnny Griffin (1928-2008)
  8. Dickie Wells (1909-1985)
  9. Buck Clayton (1911-1993)
  10. Taft Jordan (1915-1981)
  11. Zutty Singleton (1898-1975)
  12. Henry “Red” Allen (1908-1967)
  13. Tyree Glenn (1912-1972)
  14. Miff Mole (1898-1961)
  15. Sonny Greer (1903-1982)
  16. J.C. Higginbotham (1906-1973)
  17. Jimmy Jones (1918-1982)
  18. Charles Mingus (1922-1979)
  19. Jo Jones (1911-1985)
  20. Gene Krupa (1909-1973)
  21. Max Kaminsky (1908-1994)
  22. George Wettling (1907-1968)
  23. Bud Freeman (1906-1988)
  24. Pee Wee Russell (1906-1969)
  25. Ernie Wilkins (1922-1999)
  26. Buster Bailey (1902-1967)
  27. Osie Johnson (1923-1968)
  28. Gigi Gryce (1927-1983)
  29. Hank Jones (1918-2010)
  30. Eddie Locke (1930-2009)
  31. Horace Silver (1928-2014)
  32. Luckey Roberts (1887-1968)
  33. Maxine Sullivan (1911-1987)
  34. Jimmy Rushing (1902-1972)
  35. Joes Thomas (1909-1984)
  36. Scoville Browne (1915-1994)
  37. Stuff Smith (1909-1967)
  38. Bill Crump (1919-1980s)
  39. Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969)
  40. Rudy Powell (1907-1976)
  41. Oscar Pettiford (1922-1960)
  42. Sahib Shihab (1925-1993)
  43. Marian McPartland (1920-2013)
  44. Sonny Rollins (1929-)
  45. Lawrence Brown (1905-1988)
  46. Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)
  47. Emmett Berry (1915-1993)
  48. Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)
  49. Vic Dickenson (1906-1984)
  50. Milt Hinton (1910-2000)
  51. Lester “Pres” Young (1909-1959)
  52. Rex Stewart (1907-1972)
  53. J.C. Heard (1917-1988)
  54. Gerry Mulligan (1927-1995)
  55. Roy Eldridge (1911-1989)
  56. Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993)
  57. William “Count” Basie (1904-1984)

Related Content:

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Hear Langston Hughes Read His Poetry Over Original Compositions by Charles Mingus & Leonard Feather: A Classic Collaboration from 1958

Have you looked up Charles Mingus lately? You should. Mingus, who died in 1979, has a “lost” album coming out—live recordings made in ‘73, aired on the radio once, then disappeared into obscurity until now. Seems there’s always something new to learn about our favorite jazz musicians—and our favorite jazz poets. Newly-discovered poems from Langston Hughes, for example, appeared a few years back, written in “depths of the crisis” of the Great Depression.

These poems are dark and bitter, “some of the harshest political verse ever penned by an American,” writes Hughes scholar Arnold Rampersad. They are not the celebratory Hughes we read in school. While angry conservatives and McCarthyism may have forced this side of him into hiding, in Hughes’ view, poetry, like jazz, had room for everything, whether it be love or rage.




“Jazz is a great big sea,” he wrote in his 1956 essay “Jazz as Communication.” The music “washes up all kinds of fish and shells and spume and waves with a steady old beat, or off-beat.” His task, in poems like “The Weary Blues” had been to put “jazz into words,” with all of its wild mood swings, lovers' quarrels, rapid-fire conversations, and heated arguments.

Throughout his career, Mingus had been moving in the other direction, taking storms of ideas—angry, melancholy, joyful, etc.—and turning them into sounds. But his music, always “supremely vocal,” notes The Nation’s Adam Shatz, spoke in one way or another. Mingus “collaborated with poets in East Village Coffeehouses” and won his only Grammy for a piece of writing, the liner notes for his 1971 album Let My Children Hear Music.

For Mingus, critic Whitney Balliett remarked, jazz “was another way of talking.” For another composer, pianist and journalist Leonard Feather, language and music played equal roles. Feather, notes Jason Ankeny, was known both as “the acknowledged dean of American jazz critics” and author of “perennial” standards “Evil Gal Blues,” “Blowtop Blues,” and “How Blue Can You Get?”

Two years after Hughes read “Jazz as Communication” at the Newport Jazz Festival, he collaborated with Feather’s All-Star Sextet and Mingus and the Horace Parlan Quintet on an album first released as The Weary Blues. It has recently been re-released by Fingertips as Harlem in Vogue—22 tracks of Hughes reading poems like “The Weary Blues,” “Blues at Dawn,” and “Same in Blues/Comment on Curb” (top) over original compositions by Feather and Mingus, with six additional tracks of Hughes reading solo and two original songs by Bob Dorough with the Bob Dorough Quintet. (Mingus plays bass on tracks 11-18.)

You can stream the album in full above (and buy it here). Here, listen to the Poetry Foundation’s Curtis Fox, jazz musician Charley Gerard, and poet Holly Bass discuss the record and Hughes’ relationship to jazz and blues. Hughes’ poems, notes Gerard, are “structured just like blues,” their meters, rhymes, and rhythms always invoking the sounds of Harlem’s musical scene. In these recordings, Feather and Mingus transpose Hughes’ language into music, just as he had turned jazz into words.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Legendary Studio Musician Carol Kaye Presents 150 Free Tips for Practicing & Playing the Bass

The work required to become an accomplished singer or instrumentalist can seem burdensome. Many an aspiring musician may seek to avoid years of apprenticeship, especially now that getting famous for being famous has become a real career ambition, soon to appear in a course catalog at your local college. But there are still plenty of hard-working players hacking away at building up their chops. Next to a good in-person music teacher, their best resources are materials put out by a rare breed of musicians’ musicians, expert players who also teach—not only for a paycheck but also from a desire to share their enthusiasm for their art.

When it comes to playing electric bass, there are lessons online aplenty, some of them from big names like Jaco Pastorius and Marcus Miller, both of whom have recorded solid advice on video. But if you really want to dig deep into the fine nuances of bass playing, and learn from a world-renowned player who is also a master teacher, you cannot miss Carol Kaye’s Playing Tips. Packaged in a charming Web 1.0 format on her website, these tips--150 in total--preserve her responses to message board questions from the 90s. The format may be dated, but her discussions of technique are timeless.




Some of the tips tackle very specific issues, and others, like the essential #40 below, describe musical wisdom of the ages in encouraging, succinct, accessible writing.

PRACTICING. Set aside a quiet time, about 1 hour day if you can… Try going over a difficult pattern at slow tempos, and put a "loop" on it, play it over and over and over... until it feels comfortable for you. Make your practice time a fun time by mixing up the various things you have to do, and do them first before allowing yourself some "jam" time.... Tho' you might not feel like practicing, not in the mood, have tensions of many things on your mind, tell yourself: "this is my time away from everyone and everything, I deserve this time to myself" and make yourself get on the instrument. By focusing in on the music and practicing, your fingers will thank you, your brain will relax and you'll get some good work done to help you play better -- no better feeling than this, even if it's just 45 min. a day, it's "your time," a little of this, a little of that, and you're playing better and better....

Not only does Kaye answer questions about practice and theory, but she also addresses important issues of tone. Her advice below in #100 on techniques for muting the strings may come as a revelation to many players who have relied on using their palm.

The way I mute the strings is by folding over a piece of felt muting (buy at the sewing section at Target, Walmart etc.) so it's doubled to a width of about 1-1/2". Take it and tape it (I use masking tape) to on top of the bridge area, but laying slightly ahead of the bridges.... Thus, it lays on top of the strings and kills the over- and under-tones, making your bass sounds more defined....

“You'll notice an immediate difference in sound,” she assures her readers/students, “and your band will too as well as the audience.... In recording, it's a must.” Kaye advises on “chordal thinking," soloing, playing jazz patterns, and, of course, “groove,” in tip #1:

A good way to get your groove-sense together is to take a piece of music (a chord chart of some kind), put an electric metronome on, and have it beat on every beat (at first) while you pat your left foot. Now, with the metronome beating 1-2-3-4, count the bars while patting your left foot 1-2-3-4. Count: 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4, 3-2-3-4, 4-2-3-4, then start over on the next 4 bars…. Now start over and reduce the speed of the metronome to 1/2 that speed… try to place it on beats 2 and 4 by counting 1-1234... so you can feel its beats as off-beats 1 and 3 while it beats on 2 and 4 (like a drummer's snare drum beat). This is critical that you leave the holes of 1 and 3, those are your spots to play (no pun intended)….  I guarantee it that you will start to feel a groove and be able to find your place in the music a lot better as you aim for the downbeats in the bars.

It's important to note that Kaye’s tips are not meant as standalone lessons but were generally supplementary to her many books, teaching CDs, and DVD courses, which you can purchase here. Kaye also offers private Skype lessons for $65 each (note: “no punk or heavy metal players”), a fairly modest price given the stature of the instructor.

If somehow you haven’t heard the name Carol Kaye, you have definitely heard the playing of this most prolific of session musicians, on classic albums from the Beach Boys to Neil Young to Ike & Tina Turner to Ray Charles to… too many classic artists to list. Part of the legendary L.A. group of musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, Kaye brought to rock and R&B a prodigious talent for playing jazz, her first love, and even her simplest bass lines shine with perfect timing and unforgettable hooks. Learn more about Kaye in the short documentary at the top, at her site’s biography, and at the links below.

You can find Kaye's 150 bass playing tips on three separate pages: here, here and here.

via Tina Weymouth

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Stream Online the Complete “Lost” John Coltrane Album, Both Directions at Once

Expectations ran high when it was announced last month that a lost (!) John Coltrane album, Both Directions at Once, had been discovered by the family of his ex-wife Naima, and would finally be released for fans to hear. Would it prove worthy of Sonny Rollin’s comparison to “finding a new room in the Great Pyramid”? Such discoveries can lead to dead ends and disappointments as often as to revelations. In this case, the album yields neither, which is not to say it isn’t, as Chris Morris writes at Variety, “a godsend.”

The album lives up to its title, chosen by Coltrane’s son Ravi, as a transitional document, stunning, but not particularly surprising. Hear all 7 cuts on the single-disc version of the release on this page, with typically excellent playing by Coltrane’s classic quartet (bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Elvin Jones, and pianist McCoy Tyner) and an early take on “one of the warhorses of the Coltrane catalog”—“Impressions”—including three additional takes on the Deluxe Version, which you can stream on Spotify here or purchase here. (Tyner sits out the take on the single disc version, turning it into a “hard-edged, percolating showcase for Coltrane in trio format.”)




Several critics have suggested that this “lost album” isn’t a proper album at all, but rather, as Ravi Coltrane put it, “a kicking-the-tires kind of session,” and perhaps that’s so. Nonetheless, it works as “a portrait of an artist and a band on the brink of a historic explosion,” Morris writes.

"The bracing, probing, self-questioning and keenly played music on this collection is the missing link between the provisional work heard on 1962’s ‘Coltrane’ and the quartet’s epochal studio albums – ‘Crescent,’ the devout ‘A Love Supreme’ and (with additional personnel) the free jazz magnum opus ‘Ascension.’”

Others echo this assessment. Drowned in Sound’s Joe Goggins calls Both Directions at Once “hard evidence that he was still looking for new sounds within old structures,” and The New Yorker’s Richard Brody describes the session as “something of a stocktaking” that balances the experiments of the band’s live sets with the reigned-in discipline of its early 60s studio work. Brody also laments that “little on the album matches the music that Coltrane was making at the time in concert.” Winston Cook-Wilson at Spin describes the music as “sometimes at war with itself…. The contrasts of their catalogue are pushed against each other, sometimes within the same song.”

All of this internal tension makes for an exciting listen, especially in its two new originals, known only as “Untitled Original 11383” and “Untitled Original 11386,” and the 11-minute “Slow Blues,” which Morris aptly describes as “a geared-down, encyclopedic workout on blues changes” that builds, after its tempo doubles, to a “full-cry conclusion.”

In all, the new lost album shows Coltrane just about to break new ground, but not quite yet, which perhaps makes it a newly essential document for the Coltrane completist. For most lovers of the great innovator, it’s just a damn fine "new" Coltrane record, both daring and accessible at once.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Stream a 144-Hour Discography of Classic Jazz Recordings from Blue Note Records: Miles Davis, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman & More

There have been many influential jazz record labels throughout the previous century and into the current one, but there is no more recognizable label than Blue Note Records. Blue Note is “unquestionably the most iconic jazz label there has ever been,” claims the site Udiscover Music in a post on the “50 Greatest” Blue Note albums. Indeed, “it may well be the most iconic record label of all time… a brand recognized the world over for the ‘finest in jazz.’”

Outside of the label identities in certain subcultures like punk and electronic music, no other name so instantly conjures up a fully-formed, distinctive look and sound. It is the monochrome look of dapper, too-cool musical giants in tailored suits and skinny ties, and the sound, primarily, of the Hard Bop era—of Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, and, of course, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane, artists who totally enlarged the boundaries of jazz. (See the trailer above for the Sophie Huber documentary Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes.)

By design, Blue Note’s unforgettable 50s and 60s album covers—most created by artist Reid Miles and photographer Francis Wolff—suggest brimfuls of possibility. “Right from the beginning,” says producer and writer Michael Cuscuna in the video above, “they really took their covers seriously.”




But this would have meant little if they hadn’t taken the music just as seriously as the stylish artwork that adorns it. Founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, the label first served as a home for more traditional big band and swing, but in the late forties, Blue Note seemed to realize better than any other commercial entity that the future of jazz had arrived, thanks in part to saxophonist and talent scout Ike Quebec.

“Not really in the pantheon of Blue Note players of the 1960s,” writes Burning Ambulance (he died in early ’63), Quebec is still central to the label’s success. As an A&R man, he signed Monk and Bud Powell, and “it’s been said that he did a lot of uncredited arranging on other musicians’ sessions, too.” His later recordings fit right in with his more famous peers (check out his “Blue and Sentimental”). Quebec’s own work doesn’t come up in many Blue Note retrospectives, including the Spotify discography above, and that’s too bad. But it’s hard to complain when you’ve got so many incredible, iconic Blue Note recordings in one place.

Created by Junior Bonner, the Blue Notes Records Discography playlist is not “complete” in that it contains every album the label ever released—an impossible expectation, surely, especially since Blue Note is still going strong. But, with a run time of 144 hours, it more than sufficiently covers the roster of the label’s greatest players, including several many of us probably haven’t heard before in much depth. Hardcore audiophile record collectors should visit LondonJazzCollector and Jazzdisco.org to get the full Blue Note catalog of every Blue Note artist and release. But lovers of jazz who don’t mind digital streaming instead of precious vinyl and shellac will be thrilled with this impressive anthology.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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