The Blue Note Thread

Discussion in 'General Music and Vinyl' started by jefemarron, Jul 21, 2017.

  1. jefemarron

    jefemarron Well-Known Member

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    I know there’s a Jazz Thread, but since Blue Note holds a special place in jazz history (and especially among vinyl collectors), and because VMP is in the midst of its Blue Note exclusive series, it seems apt to have a thread of its own.

    So here’s a dedicated thread for discussion of Blue Note specifically – the VMP releases, the different sessions, the players that made the label so famous, and because this is a message board about vinyl, a discussion about the various pressings and vinyl versions available on the market.

    For the unfamiliar:

    Why is Blue Note so important in jazz history, and to vinyl collectors?

    1. While Blue Note started out in the swing era, it became most notable in the 1950s when they began putting out arguably the most important recordings of “hard bop”, a developing subgenre in jazz that infused the intellectual style of bebop – that had been pioneered by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie – with influences from rhythm and blues, soul, and what musicians began to refer to as “funk” (though very different in sound from the funk we know today). In fact, Scott Yanow, in his essay “17 Essential Hard Bop Recordings” notes that while it’s tough the trace the exact origin of hard bop, “a good starting point is Miles Davis' Blue Note sessions of 1952-54.” Twelve of his seventeen essential recordings were released on Blue Note.

    2. Blue Note paid musicians to rehearse. Unlike most jazz labels of the time period, Blue Note made the decision that the label would pay musicians to rehearse for their sessions, and encouraged the development of new material. This made them incredibly progressive as a label, and led to consistently high quality material on their releases.

    3. Blue Note employed a roster of superstars in its operations. The labels founders, Alfred P. Lion, Francis Wolff and Max Margulis were all giant jazz geeks, and entrusted and empowered musicians to do their best work. To do so, they employed people who painstakingly documented that work with the reverence and honor it deserved: Rudy Van Gelder, the most celebrated recording engineer in jazz history; Reid Miles, a graphic designer from Esquire, who joined the label to develop their album covers which are some of the most celebrated in music history; and Ike Quebec and Duke Pearson, two celebrated musicians in their own right, who served as talent scouts for the label.

    4. The vinyl. Like the rest of Blue Note’s operations, the label put incredible care into the quality of its vinyl releases. Blue Note vinyl collectors obsessively scour the dead wax of records looking for four things: “Van Gelder” or “RVG”, indicating the mastering was done by Rudy Van Gelder; a “deep groove” label, which generally – though not always – indicates it’s an early pressing of a record; the address on the label, which along with the presence of a deep groove label indicates what time period the pressing is from; and finally the infamous “ear”. In fact what looks like and is described as an ear, is actually a hand scribed “P” that’s been inverted in the pressing process. That P stands for Plastylite, a pressing plant that was based in North Plainfield, NJ. Plastylite pressed all of Blue Notes records up until the label was sold to Liberty in the mid 1960s, and is considered to have done exceptionally high quality work. The combination of Rudy Van Gelder’s mastering, the high quality of the Plastylite pressings, and the scarcity of many early Blue Note releases make some of their records the most expensive and sought after by jazz collectors.

    Other labels used Van Gelder, had their records pressed by Plastylite, and hired many of the same musicians as Blue Note – but it is the combination of all of the above that really made the label and its recordings so special.

    TL;DR:

    · Blue Note made the most important hard bop recordings.

    · Blue Note paid musicians to rehearse.

    · Blue Note hired the best people.

    · Blue Note had the best vinyl pressings.
     
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  2. MattS

    MattS Well-Known Member

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    It's pretty wild how Blue Note grew to a place in music history where they have become synonymous with jazz in the same regards as stax and Motown with their respective genres. I for one am incredibly excited for this release, and whether this is a monthly release thing or a sporadic thing the work VMP put into getting this for us is just fantastic.
     
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  3. jefemarron

    jefemarron Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree. VMP did such a good job on the Eddie Gale release that I'm really looking forward to see what's next.
     
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  4. lee newman

    lee newman Well-Known Member

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    Love the label and the thread.
     
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  5. jefemarron

    jefemarron Well-Known Member

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  6. HardtoExplain

    HardtoExplain Well-Known Member

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    Amen! Been wanting a dedicated BN thread for a while. I'd love this to be used as a tool for discovering unheard albums in the catalog.

    Currently digging the hell out of John Patton - Got A Good Thing Goin'
     
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  7. HardtoExplain

    HardtoExplain Well-Known Member

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    Also - I know quite a few people on here have been collecting the 75th anniversary/Music Matters pressings. If anyone plans/wants to dive into collecting vintage Pressings, fire away with any questions! I've spent a lot of time researching over the past few months.
     
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  8. DavidA

    DavidA The sun's not yellow, it's chicken

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    Personally, I'd place this in the general section.

    That being said, yes, Blue Note deserves its own thread. So glad you started this.

    I'll post a list of my favorite Blue Note recordings later.

    Needless to say, Art Blakey makes many appearances on this list either a leader or a sideman.
     
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  9. jefemarron

    jefemarron Well-Known Member

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    Agreed 100%. And I have not heard that John Patton album, so I will check it out for sure.

    I've been really enjoying Tyrone Washington's Natural Essence. It's a session released in 1968 that features mostly underappreciated musicians, but they really cook -- and get out there in the process. Highly recommended.
     
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  10. DavidA

    DavidA The sun's not yellow, it's chicken

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    The only label I can think of that rivals Blue Note is Verve but they have a convoluted history. And you have to keep the Pablo years and NorGran years in mind, too. Norman Granz produced some of the best jazz ever. But he was almost sort of the singular voice at Verve.
     
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  11. jefemarron

    jefemarron Well-Known Member

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    When I think about the most influential musicians in jazz history, Art Blakey is definitely up there. The list of people who came through the Jazz Messengers is staggering. Personally, Mosaic and Indestructible are my favorite of his albums, with Free For All and The Big Beat close behind. Come to think of it, Night In Tunisia is also ridiculously good and I love the At The Cafe Bohemia live albums. sticky pudding they're all good.
     
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  12. DavidA

    DavidA The sun's not yellow, it's chicken

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    Moanin' was the gateway for me, as for many. But I think the tale end of the Messengers lineup with Wayne Shorter is so exciting. Free For All gets constant play on my turntable.
     
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  13. jefemarron

    jefemarron Well-Known Member

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    Totally. And in terms of searching them out on vinyl, Blue Note must have pressed a fair amount of those era's Messengers albums. I've actually been able to track down originals without mortgaging my house. I have Free For All and Indestructible, both VG+ condition, and found for around $40.
     
  14. jefemarron

    jefemarron Well-Known Member

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    Which pressings do you generally look to for combo of good sound quality and decent value?
     
  15. HardtoExplain

    HardtoExplain Well-Known Member

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    Just from my experience, I rate the RVG etching variation to be the single most important factor when searching for blue notes. Obviously there are hardcore collectors out there that value Deep Grooves, No "R" or "inc" and the "Ear" as being essential since they only collect "OG." In general though, I have no problem going for Liberty pressings mastered by RVG for the best combination of sound and value. These would be the ones with the New York USA labels with no ear or the Division of Liberty labels with RVG in the runouts. I didn't hesitate at all to spring for Herbie Hancock's Inventions and Dimensions and Empyrean Isles when I found them, even though they both lack "ears."
     
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  16. JonnyH

    JonnyH Well-Known Member

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    Do any of ya'll listen to modern Blue Note releases?

    I really love the Jose James album they put out this year.
     
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  17. jefemarron

    jefemarron Well-Known Member

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    Agreed 100% based on my experience, which is limited. But the Liberty pressings I have are quite good, and I have one UA pressing from the 70s that is right up there as well (with a traditional looking BN label). Also, might just be luck of the draw, but every 'blue label/black B' version I have sounds really good, and 2 out of 3 have the Van Gelder stamp.

    Sidenote: Inventions and Dimensions is SOOOO good.

    Yes, for sure. I have not heard this one though, so will check it out!
     
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  18. HardtoExplain

    HardtoExplain Well-Known Member

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    A fairly local record store acquired a large Blue Note/Prestige collection on Saturday afternoon and posted on Social Media about it. By the time I got there for opening on Sunday, about 95% of it was wiped out. Pretty unbelievable. Collecting Blue Note is quite the grind.

    Also, if anyone uses instagram. I follow these guys whose collections will pretty much blow you away.

    https://www.instagram.com/what_can_brown/
    https://www.instagram.com/joshua_cham/
     
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  19. lee newman

    lee newman Well-Known Member

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    Whoa!
     
  20. Mr Moore

    Mr Moore Well-Known Member

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