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 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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear a 65-Hour, Chrono­log­i­cal Playlist of Miles Davis’ Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Jazz Albums

Hear 2,000 Record­ings of the Most Essen­tial Jazz Songs: A Huge Playlist for Your Jazz Edu­ca­tion

Women of Jazz: Stream a Playlist of 91 Record­ings by Great Female Jazz Musi­cians

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

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