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Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

The story behind Blue Note Records, founded in New York in 1939 by two German Jewish refugees who allowed their musicians complete artistic freedom, revolutionising jazz in the process.

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.

When German Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff started Blue Note in 1939 in New York, the two Berliners allowed their artists complete freedom and encouraged them to compose new music. Their visionary and uncompromising approach led to releases that did not just revolutionise jazz; they left an indelible imprint on art and music, including hip hop.

The present provides a point of departure from which the film recovers the past. Legendary artists Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter 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. Rare archival interviews and conversations with Blue Note musicians provide an intimate look into the creation and philosophy behind some of the most seminal tracks in jazz history.

The film reveals the values that jazz embodies and that Blue Note has promoted since its inception: freedom of expression, equality, dialogue - values we can learn from and that are as relevant today as they were when the label was founded.

1 hour, 26 minutes

Last on

Fri 23 Oct 2020 22:20

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:07

    Blue Note All-Stars


  • 00:11

    Sidney Bechet Quintet


  • 00:14

    Herbie Hancock


  • 00:19

    Ike Quebec


  • 00:24

    Thelonious Monk

    In Walked Bud

  • 00:25

    Bud Powell

    Un Poco Loco

  • 00:29

    Carl-Erik Lindgren, John Coltrane

    John Coltrane Interview ((By Carl-Erik Lindgren))

  • 00:29

    John Coltrane

    Blue Train

  • 00:34

    Miles Davis All Stars

    I Waited For You

  • 00:35

    Cannonball Adderley

    Somethin' Else

  • 00:36

    Joe Henderson

    Mode For Joe

  • 00:43

    The Art Blakey Quintet


  • 00:47

    Art Blakey

    Moanin' (Alternate Take)

  • 00:50

    Wayne Shorter


  • 00:54

    Blue Note All-Stars, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock


  • 01:07

    Lee Morgan

    The Sidewinder

  • 01:13

    Dr. Lonnie Smith

    Spinning Wheel

  • 01:14

    Lou Donaldson

    Ode To Billie Joe

  • 01:15

    Herbie Hancock

    Cantaloupe Island

  • 01:17

    Bobby McFerrin

    Thinkin' About Your Body

  • 01:17



  • 01:18

    Norah Jones

    Don't Know Why

  • 01:21

    Robert Glasper Experiment

    Black Radio (feat. Yasiin Bey)

  • 01:23

    Kendrick Lamar

    Mortal Man

  • 01:26

    John Coltrane

    Moment's Notice


Role Contributor
Interviewed Guest Ambrose Akinmusire
Interviewed Guest Michael Cuscuna
Interviewed Guest Lou Donaldson
Interviewed Guest Herbie Hancock
Interviewed Guest Norah Jones
Interviewed Guest Derrick Hodge
Producer Hercli Bundi
Producer Susanne Guggenberger
Producer Chiemi Karasawa
Director Sophie Huber