It Must Schwing – The Blue Note Story
Alfred Lion (1908-1987) and Francis Wolff (1908-1971) first met when they were teenagers in their home city of Berlin. Their close friendship was cemented by a mutual love for contemporary American music. After 1933, their Jewish faith made it increasingly difficult for them to live in Nazi Germany, and Alfred became the first of the two to make the move to America. But they always knew that jazz was their vocation and that one day they would try to earn their living together recording the music they loved. Francis Wolff escaped to New York on one of the last ships to leave Germany without being scrutinised by the Gestapo, Hitler's secret police. Reunited, the two friends worked together for their record label, Blue Note Records. Alfred, the talent scout and producer, created the unmistakable Blue Note sound with the assistance of the congenial recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder (1924-2016); and with his photographs and the ideas of graphic designer Reid Miles (1927-1993), Francis developed the unique look of the Blue Note records. The company grew slowly from humble beginnings and the two never attained real wealth - but they did leave an indelible mark on the history of jazz music. The most important thing was that the music had the right swing, or as Alfred Lion used to put it in his characteristic accent, when issuing the only instruction he ever gave to the musicians: "It must schwing!"