Various Artists

The Blue Note Years 1939-1999

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There have been many jazz labels as diverse and musically satisfying as Blue Note, but few have carried the same mystique as Alfred Lion's label, since they not only had the sound, they had the style. Like any label, it had its up and downs, but decades after its inception, the label remains beloved by almost all jazz aficionados. So, when the label's 60th anniversary rolled around in 1998/1999, it made sense that they decided to celebrate in grand style. Not only did they reissue many of their classic albums with gloriously remastered sound and restored artwork, they compiled the gargantuan box set The Blue Note Years: 1939-1999, which contained no less than seven separate double-disc sets spotlighting different genres and eras in Blue Note's history (with the noticeable omission of anything recorded between 1968-1974, when Alfred Lion left the label and the new owners instigated pop-jazz, funk, groove, and fusion recordings). Certainly, a 14-disc box set isn't for casual fans, but anyone curious about digging deep into the label's past will be thrilled with the set. Each volume -- for the record, they are Boogie, Blues & Bop, The Jazz Message, Organ and Soul, Hard Bop and Beyond, Avant Garde, New Era, and Blue Note Now as Then -- stands as its own little mini-history, covering the major players with representative songs. Sometimes the choices are familiar, sometimes they're not, but they're almost always revelatory, especially when taken in conjunction with the songs that surround them. True, the box is a lot to digest at once (perhaps that's why Blue Note later released all seven volumes individually), but anyone willing to devote the time and money to this set will be richly rewarded.

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