Blue Note in Europe

Last Updated: December 31, 2019

While rival jazz label Prestige licensed recordings for manufacture and distribution in many European countries (Esquire UK, Barclay Fr., Music Depositato IT, Artone NL, Metronome S etc), Blue Note records were manufactured and distributed for only the US domestic market. Prior to 1966, copies reached Europe and beyond only as imports of US editions, with import duty stamps.

Blue Note’s subsequent owners, Liberty Records and United Artists, licensed Blue Note recordings for manufacture overseas, for the most part locally remastered from copy tape, using the Blue Note trademark under license.  Only a restricted number of titles appeared in Europe in this period. It was not until EMI ownership in the early Eighties that an effort was made to reissue a significant amount of the Blue Note catalogue in Europe, through their French EMI subsidiary, Pathe-Marconi.

From the audiophile/collector viewpoint, as a result of remastering from copy tape, overseas pressings are generally – if not universally –  second best in sound quality compared to US originals. The only exceptions are the rare occasions US metal was the source.

Division of Liberty Records (1966-70)

1. Germany,  Liberty Blue Note

Throughout the 1960’s about 250,000 US troops were stationed in West Germany, and an active domestic jazz scene.

Pictured 1969 Stereo from Blue Note Records during the Liberty years under ownership of Transamerica Corporation. Recorded by Van Gelder in 1968, this Duke Pearson recording was a first release by Liberty.

Unusually, the Liberty catalogue number bears the Suffix letter “K.” “VAN GELDER” and “Made in Germany” is stamped in the trail-off. Label design to basic Division of Liberty labels except the addition of GEMA logo – the German copyright/licencing organisation, and copyright declaration in German around the rim.

The appearance of the Van Gelder stamp here is unusual, as it indicates metal sourced from the US, and not local remastering.


2. Italy,  Liberty Blue Note

From a collection of five Liberty Blue Note records purchased in Italy by LJC reader Francesco. VAN GELDER and STEREO machine stamp in the trail-off suggests Liberty supplied stampers, but never before seen, a machine stamp “BLUE NOTE” – suggesting a third party contract pressing. The BIEM royalty collection organisation logo appears in place of the usual “Side 1” and all the details unique to the recording are in slightly different colour ink to the label, indicating printing by a third party onto “blank” stock Liberty Labels (a practice seen briefly during the early United Artists Blue Note years)

BLUE-NOTE-LIBERTY-ITALY-LABEL-1000-LJC(Picture courtesy of Francesco, photo retouched by LJC)

The absence of Transamerica branding on the liner notes (“Printed in USA”) may further suggest 1967-8 provenance, though it is noted the German Liberty jackets are similarly “Printed in USA”, which may not be the actual case. My thanks to Francesco for bringing these previously unknown European variations to LJC.

Division of United Artists (1970-79)

1. UK United Artists Blue Note

United Artists Music and Records Group Inc. licensed manufacture and distribution of Blue Note recordings in the UK through their own subsidiary United Artists Records Ltd, and in the mid to late Seventies the first UK pressings appeared.

1a) BNS series


1b) LT series

The last-flowering of United Artists Blue Note, the Liberty/United Records LT series – previously unreleased recordings from the Blue Note vaults, seen below in the “Jazz File” series for UK release (LBR catalogue numbers). These are sonically a poor relation of the US editions.


2. France, United Artists Blue Note


Two-language liner notes

3. Germany: United Artists GMBH


(Photo courtesy of Antonio)

Given the large number of US servicemen stationed at military bases in post-war West Germany, for many decades, there may well have been a good market for jazz records in Germany, or at least for armed forces radio station play.

4. Belgium –  United Artists Blue Note

SABAM royalties collection agency identifies this as a Belgian release, though the label claims “Made in USA”, suggesting an import rather than local pressing.


Source: Discogs

5. Holland – United Artists Blue Note


Production date suggested as 1977, hence United Artists handiwork, branded as Liberty. STEMRA identifies Dutch provenance.

6. Spain – United Artists Blue Note (1975+)

(Picture courtesy of Carlos)

Modern vinyl Blue Note reissues: Heavenly Sweetness

Paris-based label founded in 2007 by Franck Descollonges previously of Virgin Records, and Antoine Rajon, formerly artistic director and founder of the label Isma’a and site. Independent productions of  early 70’s jazz , and modern electronic dance genres.



31 thoughts on “Blue Note in Europe

  1. Hi LJC,

    I recently came across one of the above mentioned Netherlands 1977 reissues of Art Blakey’s “Moanin’.” Is there any info on the lineage of the masters used for this series? I’m wondering if my copy is RVG at all. Thanks.

    • European United Artists pressings late 70’s? – no original metal source that I have ever seen. Licensing was just legal paperwork and royalties, no-one ever considered sound fidelity as an issue: copy tape and local remastering.

  2. Thank you, LJC, for all your guides through the maze of labels and re-issues. Because I couldn’t find it in your re-issue guide: have you had a chance to hear the Heavenly Sweetness re-issues? They’ve got a nice catalogue and are quite affordable, but it’d be nice to know what they sound like. Any advise?

    • I have only one and I won’t be buying any more – digital transfers onto vinyl. They do not have access to original tapes and are not transparent about their sources. I can’t recommend them.

  3. Well, it seems that I’m very late in this discussion. On the french market, original US BN records, when not licensed, was been imported, as I can remember, by CBS France. This was probably in the ’60. And when BN became a part of Liberty, then United Artists, there was license given to the french branch (Pathé Marconi) from the huge EMI international thing to press locally or import from the US the BN catalog. At the time of this change, we (and I) had the chance to buy a number of BN original records at “sale” prices, mainly at the open market (“Marché aux puces” de Saint-Ouen, next north from Paris, forget it now, I think it’s over) , as the former importer (CBS, I think) needed to clear its stocks. We were very lucky to owned for cheap prices a lot of these gems in new brand conditions (even if ever they wear a stamp).

    • Anonymous: you are absolutely right. St Ouen was THE place to go. A retailer with the MD logo sold authentic Blue Notes in the 1500 series for 18 frs, with the green BIEM stamps. My main Blue Note acquisitions have been in St Ouen aux puces early sixties. I was not aware of the change of the official importer/distributor. Thank you for the info.

    • sorry, sent by mistake….
      I didn’t find anything on Blue Note page. Where that release come from? and maybe dated?

    • sorry, sent by mistake….
      I didn’t find anything on this page, where that release come from? and could it be dated?

      • The Discogs entry cited is interesting in that the label has BIEM rights logo, so likely a European reissue, but the vinyl is claimed to be VAN GELDER stamped, so pressed with original US metal. Unusual but not unknown to supply metal rather than copy tape overseas. French and German reissues later ’60s are usually re-mastered from copy tape. I have seen the use of US metal only on pressings of Italian origin.
        The pressing ring is unusual, as is the designation of the sides as “A” and “B” rather than Side 1 and Side 2. A mystery.

        • Yes, I confirm: my copy has “VAN GELDER” stamped both sides.
          “BIEM” is a stamp, not printed toghether with the label: this couldn’t mean that is a copy imported from US and not pressed in EU?
          It’s a heavy weight mistery: 160 gr.

  4. Hi LJC readers,

    Anyone has tried the 70s UK United Artists pressings? Do we know whether they are Philips or EMI pressings?


  5. I can’t find any mention of this album- please note musicians. Can you tell me a little about this label as well? Sorry I can’t copy and paste. The blue note label is blue and yellow. One side is called Moody’s mood and it has the number 1565-A. Please let me know if additional information is needed.


  6. When Blue Note was still Blue Note, in the beginning, in the 10″ era, Blue Note had a licensing agreement with Vogue, France and Vogue U.K. Vogue issued Blue Note material under the Vogue and Jazz Sélection labels. Thus nine Blue Notes have been issued in Europe, always with the reference (on the labels) to “Blue Note Records, New York”. Not counting the original Vogue recordings which were issued in the US under licence to Blue Note, I count the following European Blue Notes:

    5011 (Milt Jackson), 5013 Miles D., 5018 Horace Silver, 5022 Miles D., 5028 J.J., 5032 Clifford Brown, 5033 Gil Mellé, 5044 Elmo Hope, 5057.J.J.

    All with French resp. English catalogue numbers and alternate sleeve art work.

    • I’ve just seen two of these Vogue 10-inch records “in the flesh” and may buy them. Does anybody have any knowledge of the quality of the pressings. The two I’ve seen are Horace Silver (a Vogue licenced issue of BNLP 5018) and Clifford Brown (a Vogue licenced issue of BNLP 5032). Both have the Blue Catalogue numbers etched in the deadwax but no Van Gelder/RVG markings.

      • Martin, you are a lucky man, don’t let them go!. I assume you have an option on UK Vogue versions. They are great, very quiet vinyl and good sound, at least equivalent to a US pressing.

          • Gentlemen, I promised to report back about those Vogue records…

            I went back to look at them more closely today and, with a heavy heart, I opted not to buy them. Three reasons really: first, they weren’t in sufficiently good condition for me to feel comfortable (a number of scratches and pits that I think would be too audible for me to tolerate); second, I’ve become much more of a quality over quantity collector as time has gone by (I probably buy in the region of 10-12 records a year); thirdly, I have other irons in the fire where I’d prefer to focus my expenditure (in particular I am in contact with a private seller with whom I have a good, trustworthy relationship and he is about to offer me several items on my “want” list).

            It’s a pity because I would have snapped up these two records had they been in prime condition. There is a definite romance to 10-inch records plus these two Vogue pressings would have been cost-effective alternatives to the original Blue Notes. Ah well, I shall console myself with self-congratulation about being strong willed in the face of temptation.

            • I would have acted in the same fashion: quality is the name of the game. It is a tremendous pleasure to buy mintish originals, esp. a 10″ albums. But if they are not absolutely faultless, it is no fun, only frustration.

  7. Hi, sorry I’m just a newbie but I came across this reissue that i don’t see mentioned in your european releases and thought it was worth mention it in case you didn’t know yet. I bought it and wasn’t very impressed with its quality. Nevertheless the cover is great it has a nice innersleeve. Here are the links:

    Furthermore I can’t seem to find any info on “Elemental Music” who suposedily “conducted the reissue”…

      “Elemental Music?
      Submitted by Musicophile on Wed, 2014-04-02 08:57
      Do you know if the Blue Note reissues by Elemental Music are all AAA? Are they worth a buy?

      Re: Elemental Music
      Submitted by David_Cormier on Thu, 2014-04-03 00:22

      The only of these Blue Note Elemental reissues I have is Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue. To me it sounds very good and has great dynamic (first time I like the sound of congas that much). But I have never heard any other versions to compare and I have no clue if these are AAA. I would be curious to know too.”

      That’s about all I could find about “Elemental Music”. Most on-line opinion is without reference to what an original pressing sounds like, but this guy is disarmingly honest , he says doesn’t know,which is commendable..

      I come from a different place. Comparing with the original pressing, and nothing to sell, all modern reissues I have heard never fail to disappoint. The manufacturers lay on the hyperbole to push sales, which says only one thing to me: they either don’t know, or they think everyone else won’t know. Problem is, I know.

      I have no idea what Elemental Music reissues sound like, and I have never heard of the company before now, so I can’t comment from experience. I am in favour of more people listening to Blue Note, and in that respect, I am all for another company reissuing them, especially in what looks like a legal licensed production.

      • I couldn’t agree with you more. Let’s hope that it turns out to be a legal and licensed reissue, although I have my doubts… The info on Elemental records is so sparse, that makes you wonder.

        Maybe one of the readers of your wonderfull site knows something more.

  8. I managed to pick up yesterday an Italian Pressing of Art Blakey Mosaic album, the label is dark blue in colour and has a white B present, number is BNST 36508, it also clearly says MADE IN ITALY. In the dead wax it says 17-7-78 their is also a symbol of some sought present. Was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the album? I can send images if need be. Cheers Lee

  9. got a german version (stashed in a U.S cover 😉 of andrew hill’s ‘lift every voice” liberty – BST 84 330 K. this is by far the worst BN lp i ever heard… the YouTube mp3 sounds magical compared to it…

  10. I have Volume 1 of Blue note’s Three Decades of jazz. its a two Lp set Commemorating the 30th anniversary. Mine just has the catalogue number and “Made in Germany” in the deadwax. It also has the “Electronically rechanneled” in the label.

  11. Thanks for adding that! We have a copy of Blakey’s “Orgy In Rhythm Vol. 1” BST 81554 in that pressing, and I’ve wondered about it. “RVG STEREO” and “Made In Germany” in the deadwax. Terrific audio quality – the equal of any of our early Libertys.

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