Richard Cook, the editor of Jazz Review, is a keen and perceptive listener whose musical descriptions are generally vivid, challenging and witty. He studs each chapter with history -- usually solid when musicological, shakier when not. The recordings, however, are his passion -- the music, the engineering, the photos, the album covers. — Gene Santoro
Now a division of Capitol Records, Blue Note was a pioneer in jazz's golden age, serving as a breeding ground for legends such as Sidney Bechet, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Kenny Burrell, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins and Horace Silver. In this landmark book, jazz writer Cook (co-author of The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD) presents a history of the label, from its 1939 start producing hot jazz and swing records to its current projects, which include releasing Norah Jones's top-selling 2002 record, Come Away With Me. Eschewing tales of boardroom politics and pages of record reviews for an overall picture of how Blue Note's "mystique grew up, and how it endures," the book is more than just the chronicle of a company. It shows how far jazz, and, by extension, popular music, have come in the past 60-odd years. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
If one record label is synonymous with jazz of the 1950s and 1960s, it's Blue Note, whose back catalog includes no less than Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Cook, the editor of Jazz Review and coauthor of The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, presents a highly readable history of the label, drawing on magazine articles, books, liner notes, and original interviews. In addition to covering its founding by a pair of German immigrants and its golden era, the author treats the label's leaner years (the late 1960s to 1980) in depth. Also documented is Blue Note's rebirth and current standing in the corporate music environment. While a discography is included, it is not extremely detailed; those wanting a more extensive one would probably do better with Michael Cuscuna and Michel Ruppli's The Blue Note Label: A Discography (rev. ed.). The material here has been around in different forms for a while, but this is ostensibly the first book to deal with Blue Note's history up to today. Therefore, it is recommended for academic and public libraries, especially those with a jazz focus.-Ronald S. Russ, Arkansas State Univ., Beebe Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
British Jazz Review editor Cook dissects the mystique of the record label that carried jazz’s standard and reflected the music’s larger culture. The author does all that could be asked to bring the Blue Note house style into focus. The label’s commitment to excellence attracted the best of the early hot jazz players in the late 1930s, he writes; it let the music flow instead of cutting it down to three-minute bites and mixed artisanship with high art, becoming the bolt-hole for jazz enthusiasts. Jazzmen of note and record--Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Kenny Burrell, Art Blakey--get their understandable due, but Cook also demonstrates the importance, especially to Blue Note, of Horace Silver, Herbie Nichols, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, the Jazz Messengers, and a host of lesser-knowns. He fits them within the changes of style, from Monk’s knotty, awkward, declarative collectivism to the more accessible sound of the ’50s, when "the neurotic climate of bebop had been traded for a more studied intensity." Blue Note stayed fairly true to hard bop, Cook argues, as it ranged outward toward the difficult atmospherics of a player like Jackie McLean. The author neatly fits together all the bits and pieces that gave Blue Note its connoisseur's appeal: generous amounts of rehearsal time, the ability to reproduce the sound of musicians playing for themselves as much as for an audience, stylish album design and crack liner notes (not to mention the trademark black and pink colors), and the crucial talents of recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder "to secure a sound which respected both the timbre of the group and the singularity of the players." Cook charts the label's progress through thedismal ’70s ("music . . . full of noodling, posturing, and modish idiocy") to its sounder footing, under the direction of Bruce Lundvall, with contemporary art jazz players like Cassandra Wilson, Joe Lovano, and Greg Osby. Opinionated, encyclopedic, un-self-consciously hip: the full drop on Blue Note. (8 pp. b&w photos)