On Saturday, May 3, the exhibition “Search For a New Sound: The Blue Note Photographs of Francis Wolff,” co-organized by the German Historical Institute and the Goethe-Institut with support from the Kennedy Center, opened to great interest from the public. About 240 jazz fans came to help kick off a month of events celebrating the 75th anniversary of Blue Note Records, founded in 1939 by German immigrant Alfred Lion and his longtime friend from Berlin, Francis Wolff. The Kennedy Center, the Goethe-Institut, the Library of Congress, the German Historical Institute and other D.C. institutions are planning a series of exciting concerts, lectures, films and panel discussions throughout the month of May. For more information please see http://www.kennedy-center.org/bluenote.
On view at the Goethe-Institut are thirty of Francis Wolff’s iconic candid photographs of Blue Note musicians, captured during recording sessions. They were taken during what is acknowledged as Blue Note’s golden years of jazz recording, the 1950s and 1960s. Wolff’s sensitive and evocative images became an important part of Blue Note’s marketing strategy, creating a branded identity of jazz as hip and cool. The use of Wolff’s photos as album cover graphics when LP records hit the market in the early 1950s also broke through racially-stereotyped portrayals of African-American jazz musicians that had predominated in the media during the first half of the 20th century.
The exhibition “Search for a New Sound” is curated by Michael Cuscuna and Tom Evered. Cuscuna, who is an acclaimed record producer and writer on jazz, oversaw artists and repertoire at Blue Note Records, as well as the extensive reissue program. Evered served at Blue Note Records for more than fifteen years, including as vice president of marketing and general manager for the label.
Wilfried Eckstein, director of the Goethe-Institut; Jessica Csoma, Immigrant Entrepreneurship project manager at the GHI; Tom Evered, co-curator; and Kevin Struthers, director of jazz programming at the Kennedy Center, made introductory remarks before pianist Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s artistic advisor for jazz and current Blue Note Records artist, gave a performance. Moran received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2010 and, in 2011, the DownBeat Critics Poll awarded him Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Pianist of the Year and Jazz Artist of the Year.
The exhibition will be on view until July 3 at the
Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
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