Today (October 16) Decca Records and Blue Note are releasing Blue Note Re:imagined, a new collection which sees classic tracks reworked by some of the current jazz scene's brightest talents including Jorja Smith (pictured), Ezra Collective, Emma-Jean Thackray and more. Decca’s co-MD Tom Lewis reveals what brought the two labels together for this project.
Blue Note is an iconic label – what are the marketing plans for the album?
"Blue Note is such an important, innovative and inspiring label. For the past 80 years it has set an incredible agenda of musical excellence, adventure and style. It is also perhaps one of only a handful of labels with a very clear identity. It knows what it does. And it does it brilliantly. That blue logo really means something. With the benefit of hindsight it’s perhaps obvious as to why we received such a positive and enthusiastic response from all the artists who have taken part in this project. Each of them immediately revealed what a pivotal role the label (or one of the label’s releases) had played in their own musical journey. This album really feels like one of mutual respect and benefit. Many of the participating artists have described the sense of honour they feel in sharing their love for the label. And, in turn, they have given the chance for the label’s story to be told to many of their fans for the first time. The release plans have been focused on a succession of 4 double A-side 7-inch single releases. And, so far they’ve seen incredible support across radio – BBC Radio 1, 1xtra, Radio 2 and 6Music, Beats 1, Reprezent and Jazz FM amongst so many others. I love that straight-ahead jazz is getting this level of broadcast support. The album launch itself will be backed by a very significant digital and retail spend targeting Blue Note aficionados, fans of all the contributing artists as well as those audiences whose tastes align with the new explosion in jazz listening."
Every track so far has been well received
Many of the artists involved are familiar to UK audiences, are you pushing certain tracks? How have DSPs supported the rollout of songs?
"The overwhelmingly domestic line-up of artists feels like a very important point. Put simply, jazz in the UK is the most exciting in the world. And, certainly, the bands who have emerged from within this scene – or, more accurately, these scenes – have made their presence known around the world. It feels thrilling to see so many British acts carrying the Blue Note logo. I don’t think that has happened since the early ‘90s. Yes. All the DSPs have been hugely supportive of the song rollout both within their specialist jazz playlists but also broadening to profile across all their new release, black music and taste-maker playlists."
Will it be a big Q4 physical album given the appeal of the Blue Note brand?
"Physical will be so important on this album, especially vinyl. The dye-cut sleeve/blue vinyl edition is a beautiful thing in itself. Blue Note’s Tone Poet vinyl reissue programme has exceeded all global expectations and gives us a tantalising sense of what we could achieve. We’ve been delighted by the response that the album has received from the independent retailers in particular.
How significant is the Jorja Smith song for the rollout of the campaign? What kind of support has it had at streaming and radio, along with other key tracks?
"The album couldn’t have got off to a better start. Jorja Smith’s Rose Rouge made an incredible impact on radio, DSPs, blogs and within the media at large. Amongst many others, the track enjoyed specialist and daytime support at BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2 and 6Music, Beats 1, Reprezent and Jazz FM. Poppy Ajudha’s fabulous reimagining of Watermelon Man was playlisted at 6Music and we’re delighted by the flying start that Jordan Rakei’s Wind Parade has got off to. In fact, every track so far has been well received."
How does Decca work with Blue Note, what other release plans are there?
"Decca are delighted to be the UK home for Blue Note so we release all their new releases and catalogue initiatives. We have a really close relationship with the label president, the legendary Don Was, who has been so brilliantly supportive of this album. His whole team are a pleasure to work with. And, we’re also working so closely with the French Blue Note team under Thibault Gerhardt and Nicolas Pflug – who incidentally signed St Germain whose track Rose Rouge Jorja Smith covered on the Blue Note Reimagined album. Plus Gregory Porter, whose All Rise album just matched his previous highest album chart position."
Last year Blue Note celebrated its 80th anniversary.