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)
(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.
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 Parisjazzcorner.com site. Independent productions of early 70’s jazz , and modern electronic dance genres.
The coy description “original analog sound” is meaningless, designed to conceal sources, certainly not remastered from the original tapes, most likely a digital file of unidentified origin transferred to vinyl.