Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Diggin On Blue Note: A History And Some Hip Hop

Today I’m going to talk a little about Blue Note Records. Blue Note has been the premier jazz label for the last 60 somewhat years. Their artists have inspired and influenced a big chunk of 90's hip hop and there samples are on joints that are still dropping today. Numerous albums from there vaults were used for groups like ATCQ, D.I.T.C., Brand Nubian, Nas, Large Pro, Pete Rock and many more's productions.

Blue Note started out in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolfff. The name comes from the "blue notes" which is characteristic of jazz and blues music. Lion came from Berlin and moved to NYC in 1937. In 1939 he recorded Albert Ammons and Meade "Lux" Lewis in a one day session in a rented studio. This started the album out. The labels first releases were traditional "hot" jazz and boogie-woogie music. The labels first hit record was "Summertime", by Sidney Bechet. They would record artists from around the city after there gigs usually late at night. The label soon had a reputation of treating the musicians well and catering to there needs such as recording at convenient times and allowing the artists to be involved with all aspects of making the record. Franciss Wolfff was not a part of the label yet, but he moved to the US from Germany and joined up with Lions. He then was drafted into the service for two years. At this time the label was not really doing much. After he got back he worked inside a music store where the owner was keeping the catalogue in print and providing storage of the records. By late 1943 Blue Note started recording again and began to supply the US Army with records. Towards the end of the war Blue Note started to make Be Bop jazz records, a style that was started mainly by Dizzy Gillepsie and Charlie Parker. In 1947, Thelonius Monk started to record for the label. On these recordings, this was Monks first debut of a leader, and also the debut of Art Blakley. The Be Bop Era went on for the next couple of years with other musicians joining Blue Note such as Bud Powell and even a few sessions with Miles Davis. In 1951 the music started to shift style a little and shift into "hard bop". Blue Note then started signing acts such as Horace Silver, the Jazz Messengers (originally a collaborative group, but soon to become Art Blakey's band), Milt Jackson (in what would soon become the Modern Jazz Quartet), Clifford Brown and Herbie Nichols. Jimmy Smith signed with them in 1956 and released the first 12" release on the label. In the late 50's Blue Note started to sign talent such as Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Sonny Clark, Kenny Dorham, Kenny Burrell, Jackie McLean, Donald Byrd, Lou Donaldson, the return of Bud Powell (by then past his prime), John Coltrane's Blue Train, and Cannonball Adderley's Somethin' Else (featuring Miles Davis in a rare supporting role). This was the era that was responsible for many hip hop producer's beats in the 90's. These records are classics in the world of digging and should be in every producer’s collection. In the 60's they dropped Herbie Hancocks debut album. Also a lot of session players such as Ron Carter who established his own solo career in the 80's for the label, Freddie Hubbard, Grant Green, Joe Henderson, and more formed somewhat of a family of musicians that would assist each over on there own records and each over’s projects. In 1965 Blue Note was acquired by Liberty Records and Lions and Wolfff retired. In 1979 EMI came in and purchased the label and started to pahse it out until 1985 when it re-launched as part of EMI Manhattan Records. Blue Note is now owned by Capitol Records and has been on active reissue campaign of the labels releases. Now such artists as Norah Jones and Anita Baker are with the label.

For today’s mp3's I would like to focus on the hip hop side of Blue Note. In 1999, Blue Note approached Lord Finesse to do a mixtape of the classic Blue Note breaks. This album has Finesse just juggling some of the dopest Blue Note breaks ever. You will recognize about 90% of these samples that he plays. Shit is very dope. Its about 50 mins long and has shout outs from everyone on there. I would like to thank Cheech for hooking me up with the mp3's.

Diggin On Blue Note Side B

In 2003 Blue Note approached Madlib and asked him to produce an album that featured samples from there entire catalogue. A very cool thing for a record label to do and a producers dream. The album has covers of different tracks such as my favorite Mystic Brew, by Ronnie Fostor and many other artists such as Donald Bryd, Horace Silver, Gene Harris, and many more. He uses his band Yesterday's New Quintet on a few tracks to provide a jazz feel, and takes the hip hop approach on others. MED has a track on there rhyming which is pretty cool. The album is good and has its moments. Some real smooth beats on it. Blue Note has been very supportive of hip hop and has embraced these artists with open arms. So they get mad props over here. Enjoy these mp3s and go digging and scoop up some of these joints.

Montra - Madlib
Mystic Bounce - Madlib

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