Written by NPR Staff from NPR
Blue Note Records is the kind of record label that people like to call “storied”: so celebrated and impactful that that no one narrative can capture its essence. From swing to bebop and hard bop, through fusion and the avant-garde, Blue Note has been been telling the story of jazz in the grooves of its records since 1939 — and for its 75th anniversary, it’s releasing remastered vinyl editions of some gems from its catalog. But the real legacy of the label is too big to capture on disc.
Even on a stage as big as the Kennedy Center’s in Washington D.C., where dozens of the label’s stars gathered for a special Blue Note at 75 concert earlier this month, the label’s history felt sprawlingly diverse: Elder titans like Lou Donaldson shared the moment with pop contemporaries like Norah Jones. You can see videos of four of those performances here.
NPR’s Melissa Block went looking for the big picture as well: She spoke with the label’s current president, Don Was, and many musicians from throughout its history. Read quotes from pianist Jason Moran, organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith and others below, and hear the radio segment at the audio link.
— Pianist Robert Glasper, who released his Blue Note debut, Canvas, in 2005
— Pianist Jason Moran (on Blue Note since 1999) on the importance of the Blue Note at 75 concert
— Saxophonist Joe Lovano. His Blue Note debut, From The Soul, came out in 1991
— Library of Congress jazz historian Larry Applebaum on Thelonious Monk’s Blue Note debut
— Blue Note president Don Was
— Organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, whose playing on Lou Donaldson’s Alligator Boogaloo won him a Blue Note contract in 1967