Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz at Goethe-Institut Washington Monday, May 5

There are all sorts of “Blue Note at 75” birthday events around D.C. this week, culminating with a huge sold-out tribute concert Sunday at the Kennedy Center. But if you’re somehow still hazy about Blue Note Records’ importance to American culture, Monday’s documentary will educate you. Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz traces the label’s origins back to its roots, when white German immigrants Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff joined forces to document their love of music by black Americans. Blue Note’s leaders earned musicians’ respect by letting the artists play music how they wanted while maintaining the integrity of its high-quality recordings via Rudy Van Gelder’s studio. The label packaged its music with trendsetting artwork by graphic designer Reid Miles alongside Wolff’s stunning black-and-white photographs. Lion and Wolff allowed musicians like pianist Bud Powell, drummer Art Blakey, organist Jimmy Smith, and saxophonist Hank Mobley to tell their sonic stories. The artists return the favor and tell the label’s tales, as well as their own, in the documentary. The film shows at 6:30 p.m. at Goethe-Institut Washington, 812 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 289-1200. goethe.de/washington.

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