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Blue Note Records: The Biography

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Insightful scenes abound in the first full history of the most noted label in jazz history. With record-collector zeal, Cook analyzes everything from Sidney Bechet's 78s to Norah Jones' recent chart-topper.


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Insightful scenes abound in the first full history of the most noted label in jazz history. With record-collector zeal, Cook analyzes everything from Sidney Bechet's 78s to Norah Jones' recent chart-topper.

30 review for Blue Note Records: The Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    if you are a jazz lover, you know about Blue Note Records. what a masterful service a couple of German Immigrants- Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff - did for jazz composers, players, and those jazz lovers among us. we can now listen endlessly, to a cadre of the finest jazz musicians on the planet. there are other record labels I could say close to the same thing about. to me Blue Note is special. I took a philosophy of art and music class as I glided in for my degree. Dr. Armstrong your awesome. the poin if you are a jazz lover, you know about Blue Note Records. what a masterful service a couple of German Immigrants- Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff - did for jazz composers, players, and those jazz lovers among us. we can now listen endlessly, to a cadre of the finest jazz musicians on the planet. there are other record labels I could say close to the same thing about. to me Blue Note is special. I took a philosophy of art and music class as I glided in for my degree. Dr. Armstrong your awesome. the point was made, and it is true. you can tell me my cannabis brownie's suck, and I will brush it off. but tell me Jr. Cook, Art Pepper or Hampton Hawes suck, and we have a bit of an issue. the point being, brownies are not important. but say something against music I love, and you have wounded me. that is why I have the utmost respect for whatever music moves you. read this book, if your into pre-fusion jazz. :)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Between amiably sketching the origins story and concluding by bitterly conceding the 70s, 80s and 90s happened as at all, this is less the biography of a record label (whatever THAT would look like) and more one man's highly opinionated and somewhat idiosyncratic verdict on his record collection. But who would you rather walk you through the Blue Note discography than Richard Cook, surely one of the greatest jazz writers of the modern age and perhaps the UK's answer to Ted Giola? Certainly in it Between amiably sketching the origins story and concluding by bitterly conceding the 70s, 80s and 90s happened as at all, this is less the biography of a record label (whatever THAT would look like) and more one man's highly opinionated and somewhat idiosyncratic verdict on his record collection. But who would you rather walk you through the Blue Note discography than Richard Cook, surely one of the greatest jazz writers of the modern age and perhaps the UK's answer to Ted Giola? Certainly in its rigour and vigour - it's balance of dazzlingly daring and intellectual insight; the very things it might be said which make great jazz - but also it's unflinching poise, steadfast certainty, poetic turn of phrase and exhausting verbosity - there's much to compare Cook to his American counterpart. Or perhaps he's simply the (co-) author of the second most authoritative book on jazz I've ever encountered (yeah, that Penguin thing)? In any case, it goes without saying that if you're reading this review your interest in Blue Note is both apparent and piqued, and therefore certain to benefit from this light-but-heavy, breezy-but-beefy meander through the most essential catalogue in jazz. FULL STOP.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    In terms of particular records put out by great jazz labels, it would be difficult to give one label more credit than another. For an American music idiom with such a rich history, so many canonized releases are scattered across a rich variety of labels; i.e, Verve, Riverside, Impulse, ESP, etc. While all of these labels have been responsible for great classic recordings, no particular label seems to share Blue Note's inimitable process, as well as its independent integrity (that is, until the l In terms of particular records put out by great jazz labels, it would be difficult to give one label more credit than another. For an American music idiom with such a rich history, so many canonized releases are scattered across a rich variety of labels; i.e, Verve, Riverside, Impulse, ESP, etc. While all of these labels have been responsible for great classic recordings, no particular label seems to share Blue Note's inimitable process, as well as its independent integrity (that is, until the late 60's I guess). Blue Note Records was created by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, both German immigrants who journeyed to the states in the mid-thirties. With Lion's visionary knack for seeking out musicians who are now considered legendary (Lion was the first to record the young Thelonious Monk, who at the time was a grossly neglected artist, as well as Bud Powell), and Wolff's stunning black and white photography, these two men slowly became responsible for one of the most widely known, independent jazz labels in the country. Shortly after, they picked up Rudy Van Gelder, probably the greatest recording engineer that jazz music has ever seen, and Gil Melles who was responsible for that classic record cover design that jazz enthusiasts know all too well. Most importantly, all of the brilliant musicians that personified bebop music from the forties to the mid-sixties. For such a slim volume, Cook manages to give a concise summary of the labels' history while including every important aspect of its accomplishments. He writes as music historiographer, but with a keen jazz critic sensibility. I like how Cook focuses on some of the more groundbreaking recordings that came from the label. Musicians like Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, and Hank Mobley are spoken of with the most reverence. He includes interesting stories and anecdotes as well, many of which entail Lion's cat (the most humorous story being the time that Lion was having breakfast at his home with Bud Powell, and the cat jumped up on the table, which freaked Powell out, and then he tried to stab it with a knife (Powell was a thoroughly disturbed genius)). Unfortunately, as this biography reaches it's end it seems to mimic the reality of, not only Blue Note Records' decline in quality, but the jazz music industry as a whole. Cook feels that the transition from the bright beginnings of those Thelonious Monk recordings to those of an artist such as Norah Jones (who is, in my mind, even in terms of vocal jazz, the furthest thing from a jazz musician) is one of the more depressing things to happen to the idiom in the 21st century.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    I'm a fairly recent jazz convert, with a small but growing collection of recordings in the hard bop, post-bop, and avant-garde styles of the 1950s and 1960s. So I found this brief "biography" of Blue Note Records to be a decent introduction to the label that released a staggering quantity of excellent and timeless albums in those genres. This book focuses as much on the men who operated behind-the-scenes -- Alfred Lion, Frank Wolff, and Rudy Van Gelder -- as much as the musical artists they reco I'm a fairly recent jazz convert, with a small but growing collection of recordings in the hard bop, post-bop, and avant-garde styles of the 1950s and 1960s. So I found this brief "biography" of Blue Note Records to be a decent introduction to the label that released a staggering quantity of excellent and timeless albums in those genres. This book focuses as much on the men who operated behind-the-scenes -- Alfred Lion, Frank Wolff, and Rudy Van Gelder -- as much as the musical artists they recorded, emphasizing Blue Note's unique independent role in the world of jazz. Prospective readers should note that this book is not a "complete" history of Blue Note, and a number of artists are touched upon lightly or skipped over completely. Also, it is not a picture book, so fans hoping to find reproductions of classic Blue Note album covers or photos of the musicians will need to look somewhere else.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    Excellent history of Blue Note records from its earliest years, the author mostly writes about what matters, the music. My only complaint is the author’s obvious bias against the 70’s. Yes, Blue Note records went into decline after the retirement of Alfred Lion. But he only spends half a chapter on the decade and writes dismissively of some of my favorite late-60’s / early 70’s records by Bobby Hutcherson, Donald Byrd, Wayne Shorter and Eddie Henderson. Regardless, he knows his stuff and writes kn Excellent history of Blue Note records from its earliest years, the author mostly writes about what matters, the music. My only complaint is the author’s obvious bias against the 70’s. Yes, Blue Note records went into decline after the retirement of Alfred Lion. But he only spends half a chapter on the decade and writes dismissively of some of my favorite late-60’s / early 70’s records by Bobby Hutcherson, Donald Byrd, Wayne Shorter and Eddie Henderson. Regardless, he knows his stuff and writes knowingly about the music recorded for the classic jazz label.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wes Freeman

    Conceit is this is the biography of a label. So you hear about the music/musicians, but also the cover art/cover artists, label founders, etc. Had I read the back of the thing, I probably wouldn't have bought it, as that idea leaves me cold. In practice its not so bad, I got the impression the dude would have written a full discography of Blue Note down to the bios of the bassists if he'd had the time, money and patience for something so exhausting. Instead what you get is a manageable portrait Conceit is this is the biography of a label. So you hear about the music/musicians, but also the cover art/cover artists, label founders, etc. Had I read the back of the thing, I probably wouldn't have bought it, as that idea leaves me cold. In practice its not so bad, I got the impression the dude would have written a full discography of Blue Note down to the bios of the bassists if he'd had the time, money and patience for something so exhausting. Instead what you get is a manageable portrait of an important corner of the jazz space-time continuum. I'm glad I read it as the book didn't actually leave me cold, just kinda warm. Lukewarm.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Successfully walking the tight rope between informative and informal, you travel with the founders of this venerable label from World War II to Coltrane's "Blue Train" to Norah Jones. And if you're like me, it'll make you want to run to the record store and get some Herbie Hancock or Art Blakey or Ike Quebec or...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Crompton

    Like many jazz lovers, I hold the Blue Note record company in the highest esteem. Their 70-year history of excellence is unmatched by any other jazz record company. That being said, Richard Cook's book didn't do a whole lot for me. It will provide little new information for anyone who already knows a lot about Blue Note - and who else would read this book?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laurent

    Highly comprehensive and documented history of one of the best quality jazz label, started in 1939

  10. 4 out of 5

    Czar

    Excellent, informational, gripping history told in an engaging style that makes one wont to pull out and collect the classics!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Geugie Hoogeveen

  12. 4 out of 5

    Asko Ardbeg

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Croom

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve Mossberg

  18. 5 out of 5

    gdg

  19. 5 out of 5

    Justin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Whiteley

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Gompers

  22. 4 out of 5

    Terrell

  23. 4 out of 5

    Richard

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mrs H

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charles Wilson

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carl Johansen

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karl-Michael

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