Blue Note Records Celebrates 80th Anniversary









80 years ago on January 6, 1939, a German immigrant and passionate Jazz fan named Alfred Lion produced his first recording session in New York City with two Boogie Woogie pianists, founding what would become the most-respected and longest-running Jazz label in the world. Blue Note Records has gone on to represent The Finest In Jazz, tracing the entire history of the music from Hot Jazz, Boogie Woogie, and Swing, through Bebop, Hard Bop, Post-Bop, Soul Jazz, Avant-Garde, and Fusion, and—after being relaunched by Bruce Lundvall in 1984—has remained the leading label dedicated to documenting today’s vibrant and creatively thriving Jazz scene under the leadership of current President Don Was, who took the helm in 2012.


A special edition of The Blue Note Monthly playlist on Apple Music and Spotify honors the legendary label’s legacy with an overview of the catalog beginning with that very first session featuring Albert Ammons and including the label’s first “hit” (a 1939 recording of “Summertime” by Sidney Bechet), timeless classics like John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” and “Moanin’” by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, and tracks from our current roster including Charles Lloyd, Ambrose Akinmusire, Brian Blade, Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper, Norah Jones, Gregory Porter, and Kandace Springs.


Throughout 2019 we’ll be celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Blue Note Records with vinyl catalog reissues, the Blue Note Review boxset subscription series, a documentary film, live events, branded apparel, art prints of classic Blue Note imagery, streaming initiatives, and more. Highlights of the year will include:


  • Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series: “Tone Poet” Joe Harley—co-founder and co-producer of the acclaimed Music Matters audiophile vinyl series—is the producer of this new series of all-analog, mastered-from-the-original-master-tape 180g audiophile vinyl reissues in deluxe gatefold packaging. Mastering was done by Kevin Gray (Cohearent Audio) and vinyl was manufactured at Record Technology Incorporated (RTI). The titles were handpicked by Harley and cover lesser-known Blue Note classics, modern era standouts, and albums from other labels under the Blue Note catalog. The first two albums in the series—Wayne Shorter Etcetera and Chick Corea Now He Sings, Now He Sobs—will be released February 8 and are available for pre-order now.


  • Blue Note 80 Vinyl Reissue Series: A series of vinyl releases in standard packaging curated by Don Was and Cem Kurosman with albums grouped by themes: Blue Note Debuts, Blue Grooves, Great Reid Miles Covers, Blue Note Live, and Blue Note Drummer Leaders. Releases will begin in April.


  • Blue Note Review: The 2nd edition of our vinyl boxset subscription series Blue Note Review: Volume Two – Spirit & Time is currently available at Curated by Don Was, the set encapsulates the past, present, and future of Blue Note by celebrating the brilliant late-career albums of the legendary Tony Williams with a tribute album by current drummers, as well as audiophile reissues of Africaine by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and Patterns by Bobby Hutcherson, the book Spirit & Time: Jazz Drummers On Their Art, the zine Out of the Blue, a set of Topps Blue Note Trading Cards, and a Blue Note carbon fiber anti-static record brush. The 3rd edition of the Blue Note Review will focus on the legacy of the label in honor of the 80th anniversary.


  • Vinyl Me, Please x Blue Note 80 Series: A special partnership with the record club Vinyl Me, Please who will offer an exclusive Blue Note vinyl reissue series featuring six titles curated by Don Was that span the many eras of Blue Note history. Pre-order will begin in early 2019.


  • Jazz Classics Blue Note Edition on Spotify: Spotify’s dedicated Blue Note Records playlist Jazz Classics Blue Note Edition, which has amassed more than 100,000 followers, has expanded to 80 tracks in honor of our 80th anniversary.



  • Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes Documentary: Director Sophie Huber’s insightful documentary Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, which premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, will see wider distribution this year with theatrical runs and festival showings thru the Spring, TV broadcasts and streaming premieres from the Summer, and a DVD release in the Fall. More info at


  • Canvas Art Prints of Classic Blue Note Album Covers & Photographs: Blue Note and uDiscover have launched a series of archival-quality, framed canvas prints in dynamic scale that present the legendary album cover designs of Reid Miles and photography of Francis Wolff. Featured designs include Lee Morgan The Sidewinder, Dexter Gordon GO, and Hank Mobley No Room for Squares, with more available soon. Find them here.


  • Blue Note X G-SHOCK G-STEEL Timepiece: G-SHOCK and Blue Note are teaming up for the release of a Blue Note branded G-STEEL watch.


  • Blue Note 80th Anniversary Tour: This Fall, a triple-bill of current Blue Note artists—Kandace Springs, James Francies, and the newly-signed James Carter—will embark on a U.S. tour of performing arts centers around the country.


  • Blue Note at Sea: The sold-out 2019 Blue Note at Sea cruise will set sail to the Caribbean January 26-February 2 with hosts Don Was, Robert Glasper, and Marcus Miller. Among the many performers are Terence Blanchard, José James, Kandace Springs, R+R=NOW, Jason Moran, Kurt Elling, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The cruise will also feature conversations on the history of Blue Note, screenings of Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, and special performances celebrating the legacy of the label.


  • PDX Jazz Festival – Blue Note @ 80: The 2019 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival (February 20-March 3) in Portland, Oregon celebrates Blue Note @ 80 with tributes to Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Donald Byrd Steppin’ Into Tomorrow, Joe Henderson Mode for Joe, Hank Mobley Soul Station, Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil, Lou Donaldson Alligator Bogaloo, Eric Dolphy Out to Lunch, and more.


  • Blue Note Tent at Monterey Jazz Festival: The return of the popular Blue Note Tent at the venerable Monterey Jazz Festival in September will feature anniversary programming including special artist conversations and performances, a screening of Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, and more.


  • Blue Note GRAMMY Nominations: Blue Note artists have a strong presence at the 61st GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 10 with five nominations in five different categories: The Wayne Shorter Quartet Emanon (Best Jazz Instrumental Album), Marcus Miller Laid Black (Best Contemporary Instrumental Album), Chris Dave And The Drumhedz (Best Urban Contemporary Album), and two nominations for Gregory Porter Nat King Cole & Me (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album) featuring Vince Mendoza’s arrangement of “Mona Lisa” (Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals).


  • Blue Note’s Best of 2018: 3 Blue Note albums rose to the top of critic’s year-end lists: Wayne Shorter Emanon, Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams Vanished Gardens, and Ambrose Akinmusire Origami Harvest were named Best Albums of 2018 by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, NPR Music, Rolling Stone, GQ, Paste, Billboard, Slate, DownBeat, JazzTimes, Jazziz & more.


* * *


It took the joining of many natural forces to create and define one of the greatest Jazz labels there has ever been: Jazz-loving German immigrants on the run from Nazism (Alfred Lion & Francis Wolff), a New Jersey optometrist moonlighting as a recording engineer (Rudy Van Gelder), a classical music-loving commercial designer (Reid Miles), and the most incredible musicians that have ever walked the earth. The elements that each brought to the table—boundless passion and impeccable A&R instincts, elegant and insightful photography, sterling sound quality, strikingly original cover artwork, and consistently transcendent music—were all essential to the label’s early success. Together they created a vivid Blue Note aesthetic. The whole could not have existed without each of the parts.


Blue Note’s legendary catalog traces the entire history of the music from Hot Jazz, Boogie Woogie, and Swing, through Bebop, Hard Bop, Post-Bop, Soul Jazz, Avant-Garde, and Fusion, and into the diverse and vibrant sounds of today. The artists Blue Note recorded represent the pillars of Jazz history: Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Jimmy Smith, Dexter Gordon, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and many more.


After a brief dormancy from 1981-1984 during which producer/historian Michael Cuscuna kept the label’s legacy alive with a series of reissues on EMI, Blue Note returned reinvigorated by the leadership of Bruce Lundvall and has since established itself as the most-respected and longest-running Jazz label in the world, remaining home to some of the most prominent stars and cutting-edge innovators in Jazz while at the same time broadening its horizons to include quality music in many genres. During Lundvall’s 30-year tenure, Blue Note remained a haven for the most creative voices in Jazz, and also had its share of commercial successes from Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Us3, Norah Jones, Al Green, Amos Lee, Medeski Martin & Wood, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis.


The same must be said of Don Was, the consummate music man who joined Blue Note in 2011 as Chief Creative Officer and became President of the label in 2012. With Was at the helm, Blue Note has renewed its dedication to Lion’s original vision that “any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression.” Lion’s words still ring true and provide a blueprint that includes Robert Glasper’s visionary melding of Jazz, R&B, and Hip-Hop; eclectic singers from Norah Jones to Gregory Porter to Kandace Springs; and the full spectrum of instrumental Jazz artists from legends like Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd, and Dr. Lonnie Smith to future legends including Ambrose Akinmusire, James Francies, and Joel Ross. Blue Note Records is one of the flagship labels of the Capitol Music Group and Universal Music Group.

Follow Blue Note Records:

Website FacebookTwitterInstagramApple MusicSpotifyYouTube