Blue Note Records’ German-Jewish roots and ethos

Nazi persecution forced two German-Jewish Jazz fans –Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion –to flee Berlin in the 1930s and relocate in New York, an action which inadvertently led to the founding of Blue Note, one of the music’s most iconic, and fondly remembered labels. Reviewing It Must Schwing (sic), a new film about the duo and the label, Playbill’s Barry Singer posits that Wolff’s and Lion’s experiences with European prejudice led them to champion Jazz and its African-American practitioners who were then frequently exploited by American record companies.  During its 1939-1965 heyday, Blue Note recorded such important Jazz stylists as Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane. Besides highlighting other parts of the tale in the film, interviews with some of those still-living innovators recall the original owners’ enthusiasm and fair business practices as well as the  lingering shock many still feel when, because of ill-health, the two sold the label to a large corporation in 1965, which altered its familial methods.