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Blue Note at 75: An iconic jazz record label gets a well-earned D.C. celebration

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Sunday April 27, 2014

From The Washington Post

Blue Note at 75: An iconic jazz record label gets a well-earned D.C. celebration
By Matt Schudel

To a jazz fan, there’s always been something special about Blue Note Records. It wasn’t the first record label dedicated to jazz; it didn’t always have the biggest stars or release the most historically significant recordings. But it was always cool.

Since its founding by a jazz-loving immigrant from Germany in 1939, Blue Note Records has been one of the guideposts of jazz. A Blue Note album always seemed to have a certain sound, a certain look, a certain feeling that embodied the spirit of jazz.

With record labels shrinking fast and vanishing altogether in our age of YouTube and MP3 downloads, Blue Note has somehow managed to hang on to its old mystique. Books have been written about Blue Note’s music and its album covers, which are still studied by graphic designers. The sound quality on Blue Note classic recordings has never been matched. After 75 years, it’s still around — although not just a jazz label anymore — and it’s hard to think of any other record company whose legacy would merit a month-long music festival.

Beginning next weekend, the Kennedy Center and several other Washington venues will launch an ambitious celebration of all things Blue Note, including films, lectures, a Library of Congress panel discussion, a photography exhibition and no fewer than 10 concerts. (For a complete schedule, go to www.kennedy-center.org/bluenote.)

Jason Moran, who is taking the Kennedy Center’s jazz program in new directions as its artistic adviser for jazz, is a major contributor to the programming, both as a performer and an impresario. He will discuss his favorite Blue Note albums with trumpeter Terence Blanchard at the Kennedy Center on May 10 and take part in a gala concert the following night, featuring some of the brightest stars of Blue Note, past and present, including saxophonists Wayne Shorter, Joe Lovano and the ageless Lou Donaldson — who first recorded for Blue Note in 1952; singers Norah Jones and Dianne Reeves; vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson; and pianist McCoy Tyner.

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