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The Blue Note Label

Alfred Lion came to the United States for good in 1938. He had traveled to the states as early as 1930 to purchase jazz records that he could not find in Germany. Soon after settling into an apartment in New York, he began recording the artists he loved: Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Sidney Bechet. The discs resulting from these recording sold out quickly, and Lion published his first brochure in 1939. His boyhood friend Francis Wolff came to the states in 1941 and joined Lion at the fledgling Blue Note Records label, but the label went dormant when Lion was drafted into the army. When he was discharged he resurrected the label, and he and Wolff moved the facilities to 767 Lexington Avenue in New York. In addition to the swing music that Lion loved, he began recording the new bebop artists who were surfacing in New York: Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Fats Navarro, to name just three.

The earliest Blue Note records were 12" 78 rpm shellac disks. Lion made the shift to 10" LPs in 1951. Suddenly there was a need for cover art, so Lion turned to some modern graphic designers he knew: Gil Mellé, Paul Bacon, John Hermansader. Recordings were made made in studios in New York: Reeves Sound Studio, WOR Studios, Apex Studios, Audio Video Studios. Gil Mellé introduced Lion to Rudy Van Gelder in 1953; Van Gelder, an optometrist by day, had a recording studio in his parents' home in Hackensack. He and Lion hit it off, and in October 1953 he began recording sessions for Blue Note. The vast majority of Blue Note sessions were recorded by Van Gelder, first in Hackensack and, beginning in July 1959, in a new studio Van Gelder built in Englewood Cliffs.

Van Gelder was largely responsible for the Blue Note "sound." In early 1956 Lion hired graphic designer Reid Miles to handle the artwork. Miles employed talented artists like Mellé and a young Andy Warhol; he also enlisted the talents of Francis Wolff, who attended most Blue Note recording sessions and documented them with iconic black and white photographs, many of which ended up on Blue Note covers.

Modern Jazz 5000 Series (10" LP)
Modern Jazz 1500 Series (12" LP)
Modern Jazz 4000 Series (12" LP)
1600 Series (K2 CD)
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