Alfred Lion came to the United States for two reasons: to escape the Nazi rule that was overtaking his native Germany, and to hear firsthand the jazz music that had become his new obsession. In the early weeks of 1939, he recorded boogie-woogie pianists Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons, and Blue Note Records was born.
This modest beginning has had lasting effects over the past 70 years, from the initial records of Thelonious Monk to the funky hard bop of Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder." Many rock and pop musicians took cues from the label's artists -- Steely Dan's "Ricky Don't Lose That Number," for example, wouldn't exist were it not for the bass line of Horace Silver's "Song for My Father." Along with the music, the label's album covers, photographed by Lion's childhood friend Francis Wolff, set standards in design that are imitated to this day.
To salute Blue Note's 70th anniversary, a group of musicians have come together to perform a set of music that captures the scope of the label's vast catalog. Many of the musicians weren't born, or were still in diapers during the label's golden years, but they've gone on to become distinguished leaders in their own right. The Blue 7 consists of Ravi Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Steve Wilson (alto sax, flute), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Bill Charlap (piano), Peter Washington (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums).
"It's daunting to approach this music," Charlap told JazzTimes in January, "but we also love playing this music. It means so much to us that we want to put everything of our intellect and our hearts into it."
The Blue Note 7. 9:30 p.m. Sat., April 4 (7 p.m. show is sold out). Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, 1815 Metropolitan St., North Side. $39.50. 412-322-0800 or www.mcgjazz.org