Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blue Note Meets Andy Warhol

The label began life in 1939, founded by two men in their early thirties, both born in Germany, Alfred Lion who had moved to New York City in 1938 and Francis Wolff who made the move as World War 2 began. The name derives from the emblematic ‘blue note’ of jazz and the blues.

The first Blue Note recording session, was supervised by Lion, was at WMGM Studio in New York City on Friday 6th January 1939 when two of the great boogie-woogie pianists, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis, cut solo and duet sides. The first release, BN1, was Meade Lux Lewis’ ‘Melancholy Blues’ backed by ‘Solitude Blues’. These ‘hot jazz’ 78-rpm recordings gave little indication of what the label would become, but for their time they were cutting edge and Blue Note would never be anything less. During the war Lion served in the US Army and the label went into something of a hiatus for the duration, but as it was ending saxophonist Ike Quebec recorded for them.

By the 1950s Blue Note became a leader in the new art form – the LP cover. In 1956 Reid Miles, who had worked at Esquire magazine, was employed at the label as a graphic designer and it is his creativity along with Wolff’s photographs of the musicians that have come to exemplify the art of Blue Note. The Sans-Serif type face, the tinted photographs and the bold use of single colours make his work not only influential in album cover art but in graphic design in general. Andy Warhol did a few cover drawings for Blue Note including these two Kenny Burrell albums from the late 1950s

1 comment:

r morris said...

Interesting post, Richard. I wonder how much Warhol charged Blue Note for these drawings?

I'm not a big Warhol fan, so whatever it was, it was probably a bit too much.