Probably the most loved and recognizable of all jazz labels, Blue Note was an important early home for jazz giants Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Sidney Bechet, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, and Horace Silver.
The label developed several ideas cherished by 21st-century record collectors–conscious reaction to the mainstream in the form of artist-and-fan-friendly production, taste-making quality control, and distinctive album cover design–all before baby boomers grew out their hair to rock ‘n’ roll LPs, and light years before Gen Y started stacking indie-label vinyl in its dorm rooms.
Founded 70 years ago by Jewish German immigrant Alfred Lion, Blue Note Records arose from his dissatisfaction with the corporate smoothing out of jazz during the swing era.
Unlike the common perceptions of out-of-touch record execs luxuriating in their boardrooms, Lion was deeply involved in the label’s operations. He found the talent and had a reputation for being an excited, meaningful presence at the recording sessions.
Fellow German native and childhood friend Francis Wolff proved equally pivotal at Blue Note. Wolff’s photography had much to do with Blue Note’s now iconic album covers, which presented intimate snapshots of performers enveloped in their late-night-session mystique and Bauhaus-inspired design.
Recent decades have found Blue Note openly, if carefully, embracing its significant influence on DJ culture. Compilations like the Blue Break Beats series have served as fantastic introductions for jazz virgins, and tasty postmodern mashups have been placed in the hands of the right producers, as on Madlib‘s “Shades of Blue.” The label has also branched out of the art-jazz catalog to sign pop singers like Norah Jones and Amos Lee.
The 70th anniversary tour features an all-star band of contemporary jazz greats playing classics from Blue Note’s golden age, by Powell, Monk, Herbie Hancock, Lee Morgan, and more. The seven-piece band, led by Blue Note recording artist and pianist Bill Charlap, features Peter Bernstein on guitar, Ravi Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophone, Lewis Nash on drums, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Peter Washington on bass, and Steve Wilson on alto sax.
Sat., January 17, 7 p.m. Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street
General Admission, $34.50; Gold Circle, $42. All Ages. 303-786-7030