Have you ever had it Blue Note?

Along with many of my generation, I succumbed to the world of Mod through the combined efforts of The Jam and the film Quadrophonia.

I would have been sixteen in the summer of 1979 and in truth, more into football than music, though when I think back to then now, I realise I was surrounded by it. My dad was a part time pub/club singer and had a decent record collection, in which sat The Beatles, Sinatra, The Kinks, Otis, Nat King Cole, Motown and The Who among many others.

Around then I began to buy the music papers of the day, first Melody Maker and then moving on to the NME. Once I had read a few interviews with Paul Weller, I was intrigued to find out more about his band and began to buy that fantastic run of singles and then albums they put together until their demise in 1982.

Their last album, ‘The Gift’ certainly struck a chord, reminding me of the youth club dances that took place on our Peckham estate in the early 70s. I picked the soul vibe loud and clear off that record and hooked into the next part of Weller’s journey, namely The Style Council, from the kick off.

I just GOT the whole package of Café Bleu (1984) with its jazz tinged feel and what I later discovered its Blue Note inspired record cover.

The mists of time have clouded over how I discovered this info. but it was probably Weller mentioning the iconic jazz label in a subsequent interview and me then hungrily going off to seek a further education on it.

I would have only known of one jazz shop back then – Ray’s on Shaftesbury Avenue. The racks and racks of vinyl within there, called me in and I would spend hours on a non-footballing Saturday, flicking through the selections on offer.

The design work on those 50s/60s Blue Note records simply stopped me in my tracks, time and time again. The photography, the bold colours, the typography, the cropping of those amazing images, all of it just fascinated me.
Gradually I began talking to the guys in the shop and my education grew further.

I learned that the label was founded in 1939 by German émigré Alfred Lion and Max Margulis on very little money. They were joined by another German escaping the hatred of Hitler, photographer Francis Wolff at the end of that year. The label grew slowly but over time became very influential releasing a fine catalogue containing work by artists such as Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, Lee Morgan, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins among many others

Things got graphic at Blue Note in 1956 when artist Reid Miles joined the company. Using the photography of Wolff, he produces a body of work, which has not only stood the test of time but has been very influential to this day.

If you don’t know the work – and I suspect if you are reading this you will have a nodding acquaintance to it – among my personal favourites to check out include ‘Out To Lunch’ by Eric Dolphy, ‘Una Mas’ by Kenny Dorham, ‘A New Perspective’ Donald Byrd, ‘Inventions and Dimensions’ by Herbie Hancock (hello The Young Disciples) and ‘It’s Time’ by Jackie Mclean

As by way of squaring the circle, I bought a book in the very early 1990s called The Cover Art of Blue Note Records and one of the authors of the said book was Glynn Callingham, who was one of the staff at Rays who welcomed me in ten years earlier.

It was ever thus.

Pass it on brother, pass it on….

The Mumper of SE5.