Blue Note: A Story Of Modern Jazz
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"It must schwing!" was the motto of Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, two German Jewish immigrants who in 1939 set up Blue Note Records, the jazz label that was home to such greats as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. Blue Note, the most successful movie ever made about jazz, is a testimony to the passion and vision of these two men and certainly swings like the propulsive sounds that made their label so famous.
The film incorporates gobs of classic Blue Note music -- the label's roster included just about every viable figure in modern jazz -- along with live footage both vintage and more modern, scads of black-and-white still photos, interviews (Herbie Hancock, Max Roach and any number of behind-the-scenes folk), anecdotes and more. -- Creative Loafing/Tampa, Eric Snider, October 1, 2008<br \><br \>"The film is packed with performances and interviews from many jazz legends and jazz lovers, a true testament to the legacy of Blue Note, with an acknowledgment of the label's rebirth and its quest to continue the work that Lion and Wolff started almost 70 years ago.." -- Mishmashmusic.blogspot.com<br \><br \>...this was a film I could not stop watching once it started. Director Julian Benedikt did a masterful job of interweaving oral history, first-hand accounts of the way the label worked, performance clips, and both still photos and film of the label's founders. What emerges from this kaleidoscopic view is essentially the truth: that Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff initiated the label in response to a personal vision and somehow, stubbornly, maintained that vision until the jazz world collapsed. -- Fanfare Magazine, Lynn Rene Bayley, June 2008<br \><br \>Although that might sound like something straight out of a hipster's Aesop's Fables or, maybe, Steve Allen's 'Bebop's Fables', the story of Blue Note Records is a real-life, triumphant tale recounted with narrative skill in an invaluable documentary...Using rare archival footage, classic Blue Note recordings, still photographs and the recollections of musicians, critics and other observers, 'Blue Note-A Story of Modern Jazz' colorfully recounts the story of the label and its prime movers, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, the Romulus and Remus of the jazz recording business. -- Hartford Courant, Owen McNally, August 2008<br \><br \>Ask mountain climbers about peaks, and they start with Everest. Ask jazz fans about record labels, and it's Blue Note. Founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, a pair of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, Blue Note set an unmatched standard for consistent quality, innovation, and devotion to jazz.
There's nothing quite like that unmistakable Blue Note sound - crisp, solid, densely propulsive. Lion and Wolff recorded everything from trad and boogie-woogie to avant-garde, but its musical home was hard bop - jazz at its most muscularly swinging. "Even in the ballads," bassist Ron Carter says in the 1997 documentary "Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz," "there was some swing going on." (Or as Lion and Wolff would say in their accented English, "schwing.") There's also nothing quite like the look of Blue Note albums. Wolff was a gifted photographer, and the pictures he took of Blue Note recording sessions are classics. Art director Reid Miles did things with layout, typeface, and Wolff's photos that were every bit as innovative as the music.
Directed by Julian Benedikt, the film concentrates on the label's glory days, the '40s, '50s, and early '60s. (Lion and Wolff sold the company, which is still in operation, in 1965.) There's a wealth of archival footage - much of it jaw-droppingly good - from a wide range of sources, as well as numerous interviews with Blue Note artists and fans. An unexpected treat for jazz cognoscenti is getting to see Lorraine Gordon, Lion's first wife and the proprietor of the Village Vanguard, pick up a phone during an interview and take a reservation for that night's show.
After a fairly chronological start, Benedikt takes an impressionistic approach, which may make the documentary hard going for the uninitiated. Conversely, devotees will be dismayed by the amount of time spent on fans (Kareem Abdu --JazzReview.com, June 2008, Glenn Astarita
The performances are, predictably, wonderful: Besides vintage performance footage (again, mostly from Europe), there is also quite a bit from a 1985 celebration of Blue Note featuring Freddie Hubbard and others-good stuff. --Mix, Blair's DVD Watch, July 2008
This artwork and selected concert footage is used intelligently and appropriately, making Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz an enjoyable and informative documentary on jazz. --allaboutjazz.com, Micheal C. Bailey
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