Posts Tagged ‘Frank Wolff


Blue Note Records: The Biography (5)

In the early 19-fifties, when releasing an increasing number of jazz records,  Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff laid down the fundamentals for what was going to be the Blue Note trademark. First they moved gradually from the New York WOR Studio’s to Rudy van Gelder’s home studio in Hackensack after Lion heard a recording of saxophonist  Gil Melle which was engineered by van Gelder. They also started to hire designers to change the industry habit of using uniform and functional record covers. Especially the photography of Wolff played an important role. Rather then photographing musicians in a posed setting, he made pictures while the musicians were recording, grabbing their emotions and expressions and using his sensivity to light and dark. Another aspect of Lion’s approach as a recording producer was his insistence on having musicians rehearse before recording. He paid for the rehearsels as he was convinced that excellent ensemble playing was the key to succes. In 1953 Blue Note made a next step by assigning trumpettist Clifford Brown who was in his early twenties by then and had an amazing talent which even blew Dizzy Gillespie away when he first heard Brown playing. One of the recordings that Lion made was Brown’s composition  “Brownie Speaks” in which the three choruses played by Brown show his unique style, sound and phrasing.


Blue Note Records: The Biography (3)

Photographer Frank Wolff arrived in New York at the end of 1939, by legend on the “last boat out of Nazi Germany”.  He instantly sought contact with his old time friend from Germany, Alfred Lion. The couple would work together for decades to come to set the standard of the recording industry in many aspects, Lion as the producer, Wolf as the photographer.

In 1947 Alfred Lion was seeking a musician who would make impact in the world of bebop, taking into account that Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker had already made outstanding bop records that set the pace for that type of music.  He found it in the person of Thelonius Monk who was thirty at the time but had made no record yet as a leader. Although he certainly belonged to the bop generation and had adopted bop’s innovations, he stood apart from much of the language: the whirlwind tempo’s and virtuoso accuracy which typified most of the recordings. And apart from being a original jazz pianist he was an outstanding composer.

The first recording for Blue Note was Monk’s “Humph”which was way out for what Blue Note had been recording before. The strange descending line of the melody was certainly something note done before in bebop. Apart from Monk on piano are on this recording  trumpeter Idrees Sulieman, Danny Quebec West and Billy Smith on saxophone, bassist Gene Ramey and drummer Art Blakey.

Source: Blue Note Records – The biography – Richard Cook.

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