Dan Gould

At 70, a Legendary Jazz Label Asks, ‘Now What?’

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... Now part of a larger corporate entity, facing both a parlous music industry and the looming prospect of Mr. Lundvall’s retirement, Blue Note has entered a pivotal moment in its history. Branching beyond jazz, it has moved into what Mr. Lundvall calls “the adult sophisticated pop area.” Its best-selling release last year was by Al Green (“Lay It Down,” which has sold more than 175,000 copies). Next in line was a live album from Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson, who will reunite for two sold-out shows on Monday and Tuesday at the Rose Theater, with Ms. Jones as a featured guest. (Their album has sold more than 100,000 copies.)

The quandary for Blue Note is how it can remain the pre-eminent jazz label while surviving as a profitable business. “One of the first things that Alfred Lion said to me was, ‘What are you going to do to be commercial?’ ” Mr. Lundvall, 73, recalled recently in his office. It’s a question that resonates even more today.

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well, they've solved one problem - it's no longer the pre-eminent jazz label -

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well, they've solved one problem - it's no longer the pre-eminent jazz label -

Not that I disagree, but which label is the pre-eminent jazz label???

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well, they've solved one problem - it's no longer the pre-eminent jazz label -

Not that I disagree, but which label is the pre-eminent jazz label???

Whichever one makes the least amount of money.

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ECM is the jazz label of the current time.

It reflects the fact that most jazz is performed for European audiences.

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well, they've solved one problem - it's no longer the pre-eminent jazz label -

Not that I disagree, but which label is the pre-eminent jazz label???

The one that records and releases the pre-eminent jazz of our time.

Which is........???????

Exactly.

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Pi.

Maybe.

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ECM is the jazz label of the current time.

It reflects the fact that most jazz is performed for European audiences.

Well, ok, but that means that Euro-audiences are just as stuck as American ones, only instead of being stuck in the 50s & 60s, they're stuck in the 70s & 80s.

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ECM is the jazz label of the current time.

It reflects the fact that most jazz is performed for European audiences.

Well, ok, but that means that Euro-audiences are just as stuck as American ones, only instead of being stuck in the 50s & 60s, they're stuck in the 70s & 80s.

I imagine some members of the American AND European audience are stuck in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s etc.

But, from what I see at concerts and at festivals, there are a substantial number happy to explore the 1920s and the 21st century.

To do that you need to go beyond just one label. So I don't imagine there is any one label that really represents these times. And with technology moving at the pace it is, the idea of 'the label' may be a thing of the past.

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Agree that the idea of 'the label' is passe.

I went to Birdland to give some material to Liebman and Randy Brecker for a gig they are doing for me next month.. I heard the last tune of the set, a long 'Sidewinder' played as a deconstructed ambient piece. With Marc Copeland, Drew Gress, Billy Hart.

That's what I meant by ECM. Manfred's 'vison', for what it's worth, seems to have enveloped quite a few.

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Calling Blue Note the "pre-eminent jazz label of today" is like referring to the current New Orleans Jazz Festival as the "pre-eminent jazz festival of today." Neither one fits the bill.

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sorry, the pre-eminent jazz label is Spaceout Records -

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well, they've solved one problem - it's no longer the pre-eminent jazz label -

Not that I disagree, but which label is the pre-eminent jazz label???

Obviously, Fresh Sound/Lonehill, etc. <_<

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The question seems backward to me.

Instead of asking why are contemporary audiences wallowing in old music surely we should we be asking why contemporary musicians are not making music to attract contemporary audiences. After all, in the pop world audiences go for the 'now'. Why does an audience looking for a bit more than pop music look backwards?

A glance to the classical world should provide some pointers. There's a long history there of new works bewildering audiences (even provoking riots!) yet ultimately becoming mainstream. But the high-culture new music of 50 years ago has still not been accepted by the classical music audience at large (whatever its virtues it remains of interest to other musicians and the more intellectual listener). The new classical music that is being welcomed by the wider audience is villified by the intellectual elite as a retreat from the frontiers.

Of course it's not that simple - there is new jazz being made that is getting a wider audience (though not a mass-popular audience). But by and large it is jazz that those who like to sit in judgment feel they should not be choosing to listen to.

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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I still think Blue Note is dropping the ball on downloads of unavailable alternate takes and unreleased tunes from sessions that are out there. I've heard 3 alternates of IF, alternates of Moontrane and Beyond All Limits from the Unity Album that all could have been released...alll wonderful...mindblowing. Why aren't they downloadable from iTunes? Stuff like that is loading down the vaults at Blue Note while they try and figure out how to package Blue Train for the zillionth time. Lots of opportunities to try and make things work in the new computer age...but all I see is ball dropping by top heavy corporations.

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I'm not sure which decade(s) I'm stuck in, but some of the Japanese labels seem to be doing a good job of not compromising the music.

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I still think Blue Note is dropping the ball on downloads of unavailable alternate takes and unreleased tunes from sessions that are out there. I've heard 3 alternates of IF, alternates of Moontrane and Beyond All Limits from the Unity Album that all could have been released...alll wonderful...mindblowing. Why aren't they downloadable from iTunes?

That's just wrong*. Are they part of some Mosaic box or something?

* = as awful!

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To me, the current BN falls into the same traps that many contemporary labels fall into... the 70 minute recordings (about 30 min too long), too many tribute albums, neglecting working bands that travel and routinely play gigs in favor of signing kids just out of college or big name stars.... I guess those are the things that sell, but they make for mostly boring music.

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No...the alternate takes are not available anywhere. Don't feel comfortable telling you where I heard them, but I did hear them and they are all VERY VERY VERY unbelievable. Amazing to hear. All could have been master takes. Blue Note is sitting on plenty of these things, but instead of 'thinking out of the box' (i hate that expression)....they're doing the same stuff they've been doing. Come on, take ADVANTAGE of the new age BN.

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Just because something exists on tape does not mean you "deserve" to listen.

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The question seems backward to me.

Instead of asking why are contemporary audiences wallowing in old music surely we should we be asking why contemporary musicians are not making music to attract contemporary audiences.

I think the question largely hinges on production. The great 50s and 60s BN albums SOUND GOOD, whereas digitized jazz doesn't breathe. I love to go hear new jazz live, but must say that I find precious few albums translate the experience of live music into anything I'm compelled to buy.

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The question seems backward to me.

Instead of asking why are contemporary audiences wallowing in old music surely we should we be asking why contemporary musicians are not making music to attract contemporary audiences.

I think the question largely hinges on production. The great 50s and 60s BN albums SOUND GOOD, whereas digitized jazz doesn't breathe. I love to go hear new jazz live, but must say that I find precious few albums translate the experience of live music into anything I'm compelled to buy.

Well, that's a matter of personal taste. I find plenty to enjoy in what you call 'digitised jazz' and get much the same pleasure as I get from an old Blue Note (if Blue Note had been my centre of gravity for 40 years I might feel differently).

Very little of what I do enjoy in contemporary jazz, however, is on Blue Note...or Verve...or Warners.

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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