Jazz fans who are also Spotify subscribers probably can just say goodbye to their afternoon with the release of a new app from Blue Note Records.
The free app opens up the iconic jazz label’s catalog in a way that allows a depth of exploration tough to achieve in the analog world. Fans can search through a variety of entry points, including chronological, style (“tradition,” “groove” and “voices”) or instrument.
Let’s start with a straightforward search along a timeline that primarily breaks the label’s output into four- to five-year chunks, which also functions as a mini-museum of the label’s clean, evocative design aesthetic under the direction of Reid Miles since 1956.
It quickly becomes apparent why those short windows of time were required. The label produced a remarkable output, particularly from 1961 to ’65, when every week it seemed the label was releasing a landmark album from the likes of Herbie Hancock, Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean and Andrew Hill. Paging through those albums is sometimes less an experience of browsing a record label’s history and more one of exploring jazz itself.
In addition to offering a crate-digger’s wealth of recordings, the app features bios for each bandleader and notable sidemen. A heading labeled “Blue Note 101" offers a limited selection of artists under the app’s three broad “sectors,” including contemporary artists Norah Jones, Robert Glasper and Ravi Coltrane.
Another feature, under the heading of “Blue Break Beats,” offers a different side of the label’s catalog. A sort of a digital extension of the ‘90s compilation series of the same name, the section pairs hip-hop and dance music tunes with their Blue Note source material. If you haven’t yet placed the connection that lies between Naughty By Nature and Donald Byrd or Lou Donaldson and Madonna, this is where you can fill in the blanks.
Overall, the app provides a remarkable opportunity for exploration, particularly for some of those titles that have become more scarce in the physical world. Whether that scarcity is partly a byproduct of similar digital exploration, well, that’s a question for another time.