November 18, 2019  (Web Review)

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

(2019) 111 min. DVD: $15.98, Blu-ray: $21.98. Eagle Rock Entertainment (avail. from most distributors).

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Filmmaker Sophie Huber serves up a character-driven tribute to the legendary jazz record label Blue Note Records. While the complex subject could benefit from a lengthier, multi-part series, this is still a solid introduction to a labor-of-love enterprise that gradually built an identity as Blue Note evolved with generational changes in jazz. Huber covers the label’s founding in 1939 by a couple of immigrants from Berlin and an American Communist who (ironically?) fronted the necessary capital. Beyond the Notes tracks Blue Note’s artistic reach over time, from the swing music popular in the era of the company’s origin, to the birth of modern jazz in the late ‘40s, to the innovations of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter in the ‘60s, to the sampling of historic Blue Note tracks in contemporary hip-hop. Blue Note was sold in 1966 and has changed hands several times—the current head of the company is the terrific producer Don Was. Huber leaves viewers with a sense of security that this cultural treasure is under the right stewardship. Extras include bonus musical performances. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)