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Record Label Profiles

Blue Note at 70

By Published: February 14, 2009
For Elias, being a part of the Blue Note tradition "has been an incredible experience and a great honor." She says she feels "a responsibility to uphold the continuity" of the label. "I have always had so much respect for the quality" of the music Blue Note makes, she said. Elias grew up listening to Blue Note albums, which were very difficult to acquire in her native Brazil in the '70s. "My father would come back from trips to the US with stacks of Blue Note records I had requested," she said. "I had Herbie, Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
1931 - 1971
piano
, a lot of Bud Powell
Bud Powell
Bud Powell
1924 - 1966
piano
. I would devour Blue Note recordings of Bud Powell and Monk."

Lovano also grew up listening to classic Blue Note records, courtesy of his father, Cleveland saxophonist Tony "Big T" Lovano. "The records that stood out? Some of the Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Live at Birdland and Live at Cafe Bohemia. Jimmy Smith, The Sermon. Blue Train... The history of Blue Note speaks for itself. It's documented in such an honest and beautiful way. The legacy of the label will live forever. Just mention the names and the sound comes through: Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
1932 - 2006
sax, alto
, you hear it; Jimmy Smith, you hear it."

Blue Note's legendary catalog remains a vital revenue stream for the label, but Lundvall also recognizes how essential it is for jazz itself and for the culture at large to keep such historic recordings before the public.

"From the time we restarted the label, its great catalog has been the profitable safety net throughout the years," Lundvall said. "It's also important to keep important music available, not just for fans but for young musicians coming up. They have to grasp the past in order to write the future."



L-R: Bruce Lundvall (CEO & President, Blue Note Label Group); Lionel Loueke; Eli Wolf (Vice President, A&R, Blue Note Records); and, Zach Hochkeppel (General Manager, Blue Note Records).

Blue Note has also enjoyed considerable commercial success in recent years with crossover artists, notably Norah Jones, as well as veterans like Van Morrison
Van Morrison
Van Morrison
b.1945
vocalist
, Al Green
Al Green
Al Green
b.1946
vocalist
and Anita Baker, who have extended the label's reach beyond a strictly jazz audience.

"Our crossover artists have been very important in terms of sales and in terms of doing quality projects in other adult music realms," said Lundvall. "The first time I heard Norah, I was knocked out by her sound, her phrasing and her unique delivery. I didn't see dollar signs. In fact, we thought the first album would be a great success if it sold 100,000 copies or so."

It went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide, by far the best-seller in Blue Note history and one of the biggest-selling albums ever.

So what does the future hold for the longest- running label in jazz? Despite the recession, the challenge new technology poses for the music industry and the never-ending questions about how jazz can survive, Lundvall is optimistic.

"Methods of delivery and marketing may have changed, but it begins and ends with the music," he said. "We are in bad economic times in general and in the music industry in particular. But there is no shortage of great music and no shortage of fresh new voices emerging. Jazz will be just fine, thank you!"


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