Director: Julian Benedikt
Blue Note Records has influenced more than jazz in its time. Its cultural significance has reached out to filmmakers, designers, artists and actors across the globe. Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz stands as a vibrant document of one of the most important periods in the development of modern music. The story begins in 1939 when two European emigres - Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff - fled Nazi Germany to America. The company they formed was to become the leader in its field. The lineup of artists they embraced and steered is legendary: Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, Ornette Coleman and Dexter Gordon to name just a few.
Julian Benedikt's documentary retells the story with a keen finger on the jazz pulse. Interviews with Lions' two wives, jazz musicians and friends flesh out the particular social context in which an unassuming duo - who, as Herbie Hancock recounts, both had two left feet - came to found such a vital jazz label in America. Interviews are accompanied by live performances from Bud Powell, Monk, Horace Silver and more contemporary Blue Note artists such as Cassandra Wilson. The film teases out many anecdotal gems, including one about pianist Bud Powell performing so eccentrically at Birdland that he was thrown onto the street! Lion, who happened to pass by, pursued Powell, who hid under a car. Half an hour and much negotiating later, Powell emerged and agreed to start recording for Blue Note. Benedikt also reveals important archival treasures such as Wolff's photos (distinctive cover designs, moody monochrome photography) and legendary early live performances. Nominated for a Grammy this year for Best Long Form Video, and a host of other American and German awards, Blue Note is a definitive article for jazz enthusiasts and music lovers alike.
Julian Benedikt's background includes studies in both jazz and classical music. He took the lead role in the feature film Love at First Sight (Cannes 1992), and has written and directed Voodoo Chile: The Music of Jimi Hendrix (1995).