Blue Note Honored by Harvard's OFA
By: Sorrel L. Nielsen
An unexpected guest showed up to a panel discussion on April 12 about the rich history of jazz's preeminent recording label, Blue Note Records. Celebrated saxophonist and jazz composer Joe Lovano joined Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music, Michael Heller, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Music, and lead discographer of Blue Note Records, Michael Cuscuna for the event. Lovano was every bit the eccentric musician-sporting a beret and tea shades-as he attempted to bow out of the impromptu invitation to join the panel. "I don't want to crowd the space," he said. The three discussants eagerly called him up, with Heller insisting, "You're part of the history!" To which Cuscuna laughingly shot back, "Yeah, you're that old."
In the historical context, however, both Cuscuna and Lovano are relative newcomers to Blue Note Records. The label was officially founded in 1939, when jazz-obsessed German immigrant Alfred Lion and photographer Francis Wolff decided to create a label with the purpose of recording of "hot jazz" and swing. The pure creative force of the burgeoning genre inspired Lion. "Hot jazz…is expression and communication, a musical and social manifestation-and Blue Note Records [is] concerned with identifying its impulse," he wrote in the label's first brochure.
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