Jazz historians routinely throw Blue Note Records’ 1970s output under the bus. Either they discuss it with tremendous disdain and rote arguments about how the label traded its artistic soul for ill-fated commercial pandering under the direction of Dr. George Butler, or they avoid talking about it altogether.
Even Sophie Huber’s commendable documentary, Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, tiptoes over the label’s ’70s catalog while exploring the connections between jazz and hip-hop. Sure, there are some quick visual flashes of a few Blue Note LPs from the ’70s, but there’s no real deep dive into any of them. Then there’s the peculiar moment when saxophonist and producer Terrace Martin comments about the label’s contribution to the soundtrack of the 1960s civil rights movement, followed by an immediate leap into examining how hip-hop addressed similar sociopolitical issues. It’s as if 1970s soul and funk didn’t happen, didn’t have an important role in the formation of hip-hop, and didn’t have any lasting cultural impact. (Let’s not forget hip-hop emerged in the ’70s too.)