Blue Note Records is arguably one of the most significant record companies in the history of jazz. Even the most casual of jazz fans are familiar with artists like Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock. These legendary artists are just a sampling of the giants, past and present, who recorded for the independent label. Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz tells the story of label founder Alfred Lion who immigrated to the United States from Nazi-controlled Germany in 1938. Lion’s lifelong friend Francis Wolff followed him to America in 1941 and together the two forged new ground in recorded jazz for nearly three decades.
Directed by Julian Benedikt, the ninety-minute documentary includes performances and commentary by an all-star roster of musicians associated with the label, including Ron Carter, Johnny Griffin, J.J. Johnson, Horace Silver and Hancock.
The historic concert footage, much of which comes from European television archives, provides a rare glimpse of some of the labels biggest stars in their prime. Glimpses of Silver, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey and more, from 1960s broadcasts, moves back and forth between footage of 1985’s Town Hall concert in New York that re-launched the modern era of the label under Bruce Lundvall. The latter features a brilliant performance from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.
The breadth of Blue Note’s influence under the watch of Lion and Wolff, is long-lasting and monumental. Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz makes this point abundantly clear. A must have for any serious jazz fan.