My copy of Soul Samba (Blue Note 4114, NY USA pressing, 1962) by the underappreciated Ike Quebec is in pretty good shape, though it’s been well-used. The surface noise on the record is like a continuous crackling fire, yet the music is so well recorded (thanks RVG), mastered, and pressed that the distraction seems minor. Quebec’s song selection is top-notch, avoiding all of the over-recorded hits from Rio at the time.
Someone bought the album, let’s say in 1962, when bossa nova was the pre-Beatlemania sound sweeping the planet, for $3.75 (marked down from the 4.98 list) at a shop called Woodard’s (no city given), according to a stamp on the back cover. That is the definition of a bargain. Here we are, 47 years later, and this object still holds all its wonder, wrapped in a typically masterful cover from the Don of album graphic design, Reid Miles.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of Blue Note Records, perhaps the most revered independent record label in history. (It’s now an imprint of EMI, having been resurrected in 1984 by Bruce Lundvall who, while expanding the boundaries of what a Blue Note artist is, has been doing great work keeping the classic catalog alive.) From their press release:
It took the joining of many natural forces to create and define one of the greatest Jazz labels there has ever been: Jazz-loving German immigrants on the run from Nazism (Alfred Lion & Francis Wolff), a New Jersey optometrist moonlighting as a recording engineer (Rudy Van Gelder), a classical music-loving commercial designer (Reid Miles), and slews of the most incredible musicians that have ever walked the earth (too many to name them all here). The elements that each brought to the table – impeccable A&R instincts, elegant and insightful photography, sterling sound quality, strikingly original cover artwork, and consistently transcendent music – were all essential to the label’s early success. Together they created a vivid Blue Note identity. The whole could not have existed without each of the parts.
It definitely was some kind of alchemy that brought all these geniuses together, all committed to the common cause of recording great jazz and making it available to the music lovers at Woodard’s and beyond. It’s a different company these days, no longer a fiesty independent, but the legacy is alive. Happy anniversary to the departed Lion, Wolff, Miles, and to Van Gelder, who is still recording jazz to this day, and to all the amazing artists who did some of their best work for Blue Note.