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The Gig–Blue Note Records: Revived & Well

At 75, the legendary label is thriving and evolving

Nate Chinen
Don Was
Robert Glasper, 2013 Cape Town International Jazz Festival

What was the best release on Blue Note Records this year? It’s still too early for that question, so let’s change the criteria and try again. By my estimation, the label’s most heartening release in 2014 was a double header recorded 75 years ago. I’m referring to the very first two entries in the Blue Note catalog, made by the Chicago boogie-woogie pianists Meade “Lux” Lewis and Albert Ammons.

Their limited-edition reissue on 12-inch vinyl this April, in coordination with the nationwide retail promotion known as Record Store Day, was worth noting not only for the durable if slightly crackly charms of the music. It was also a marker, another reason to believe that Blue Note, awash this year in 75th-anniversary commemoration, had regained its balance after a season of faltering uncertainty. Against the backdrop of the label’s other output this year, this low-key archival flourish sent an unspoken message: We know who we are and where we came from, we have a strong feel for where we’re going, and we’re certain we can catch your interest along the way.

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