Among the many different products celebrating Blue Note’s 75th Anniversary (or perhaps capitalizing upon is a better way to put it) is the Astell & Kern Blue Note 75th Anniversary Package. When I got the press release I was curious, so I clicked on the link and here’s what the package includes:
-75 Blue Note albums, remastered in a hi-res digital format, preloaded onto the company’s AK240 digital player
-hardbound book with all the original album art
-a new book on Blue Note by Richard Havers
-a copy of each album on an SD card (does anybody still use those?) in a case with original album art. Bonus: it comes with a fancy tower where the cases can be spun around to make various architectural shapes, that can “be placed next to your home system for an elegant, luxurious display.”
The 75 albums are pretty much what one would expect: Monk, Silver, Sonny, Trane, Blakey, Mobley, Hancock, Dexter, Hubbard, etc etc. There’s even a couple of the more experimental-leaning albums from Blue Note’s catalog: Jackie McLean’s Destination Out, Grachan Moncur III’s Evolution, Dolphy’s Out to Lunch!, and Cecil Taylor’s Unit Structures and Conquistador!.
I was particularly interested to see what post-1969 albums were included. Here’s the list: Donald Byrd’s Black Byrd, Marlena Shaw’s Who is this Bitch, Anyway?, Cassandra Wilson’s New Moon Daughter, Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me, and Gregory Porter’s Liquid Spirit. Except for Byrd, it’s all vocalists. Where are any of the label’s fantastic instrumental albums of the last 30+ years? Just in the last couple year’s there’s been some great ones, such as Shorter’s Without a Net and Ambrose Akinmusire’s The Imagined Savior is far Easier to Paint. Not to mention excellent albums by Joe Lovano and Andrew Hill.
And this tells you all you need to know about who Astell&Kern is marketing this to: upper-class people for whom the classic Blue Note catalog signifies sophisticated taste, but who probably only own a couple of them. The Wilson, Jones and Porter albums are probably the safest – and have the most crossover appeal – of the 75 albums on the list. This is for the stereotypical NPR crowd who doesn’t know much about jazz but who think that it’s important for them to. Blue Note has tons of cultural cache, so here’s one way for those with plenty of disposable income (that there is no price listed indicates that this set costs a whole bunch) to get hip.
This is pure and simple conspicuous consumption (don’t forget to make sure that luxurious and elegant tower of SD cards with original artwork is prominently displayed next to the McIntosh speakers for dinner parties). Forget about going out and discovering new music, being surprised by it, taking a risk and buying something based on a trusted friend’s recommendation (Grant Green’s Idle Moments was one of the best albums recommended to me), or beginning on a trail of exploration that leads to unexpected places (How did Song for My Father take me to The Sidewinder, then to Mode For Joe, before ending at Black Fire?) – don’t worry about the fun part of collecting and listening to music: Astell&Kern are offering up the chance to not only show the Joneses how unhip they are, but to buy great taste in one limited edition package. I can’t think of a more soul sucking way to enjoy all this great music.