The Blue Note documentary that is currently on the BBC i-player Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes is as brilliant as you would hope.
Billed as “a revelatory, thrilling and emotional journey behind the scenes of Blue Note Records, the pioneering label that gave voice to some of the finest jazz artists of the 20th and 21st centuries”.
The film tells the story of how German Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff founded the label Blue Note in 1939 New York.
Unlike anybody before them they allowed their musicians complete freedom and it was this approach that led to records that did not just revolutionise jazz but left an indelible imprint on art, style and music, including hip hop.
With many of the original musicians no longer with us it is left to jazz giants Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to come together with today’s generation of groundbreaking Blue Note artists such as Robert Glasper and Ambrose Akinmusire to record an all-stars album.
These reflections lead us back to the highly influential figures of the past on which the legacy of Blue Note has been built, including Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Miles Davis. The archive footage is magnificent, the genius shines through while the humour is apparent throughout the one-and-a-half hours playing time.
But it is so much more than that. It provides a social history of both jazz and the United States of America. It never shies away from the racism and politics nor the social drug habits of many of the artists.
The film also delves into the impact that the artwork of Blue Note Records had on the design world and then there are the clothes. This is truly beyond cool. Just check out the suits, shirts, shawls and shoes worn by the musicians and those behind the scene.
With jazz having another wonderful moment at the time then it’s great to look back and realise just how fucking cool all of this was.
Then there’s the music. the music that is quite simply some of the greatest that has ever been written. Tunes that swing and soar and melodies that have become earworms for 80 years.
It’s all just too cool, too stylish, too cool, too fantastic!

For the next three weeks or so you can access it here

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