Denver-based record-of-the-month club Vinyl Me, Please (VMP) is digging deep into the history of jazz with a forthcoming box set based around the legendary jazz label Blue Note Records.
The new collection — which will serve as the inaugural release in a brand-new series entitled VMP Anthology — is a limited edition six album seven-LP box set to be delivered in three bi-weekly shipments over a six-week period. Titled VMP Anthology: The Story of Blue Note Records, the set will tell the history of the label through the artists and albums that helped shape it, with each installment focusing on a different era of jazz: bebop, hard bop, soul jazz, post-bop, fusion and the jazz of today.
“It’s very akin to a music documentary,” says VMP head of product Amy Maher about VMP Anthology. “We’re just trying to tell those stories through the music itself, and through the people who created that music.”
To curate the Blue Note box set, which falls on the label’s 80th anniversary, VMP turned to Blue Note president Don Was, who helped narrow the collection down to 12 of the label’s classic — albeit lesser-known — albums.
“We knew that they had a really rich catalog that we were excited to dig into and one thing that was very important to us is that in telling the story, we didn’t just want to go back to some of the most popular albums that had a lot of reissues or had a lot of attention,” said VMP’s head of music Cameron Schaefer. “We really wanted to try and go a layer deeper into their catalog and find some great albums that maybe hadn’t gotten as much attention in the past.”
Schaefer continues, “In terms of the history, it was a real light-bulb moment for us that not only could we tell the story, but we could do it in a very methodical way where not only were we just telling the story of the label but we were telling the history of jazz in the process.”
Those who purchase the Blue Note box set, which is limited to 1,000 copies, will receive a booklet of liner notes written by former New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliffe. Additionally, buyers will have access to a wealth of exclusive materials, including a private fan community, surprise bonus content and a four-part podcast featuring Was and VMP editorial director Andrew Winistorfer.
For the podcast, which was recorded at the landmark Capitol Records building in Hollywood, Was not only offered in-depth insight on Blue Note’s history but took the conversation in a more intimate direction by relating some of his personal experiences as a young music fan.
“When he was a kid, he used to talk about driving across town literally just to hold a Blue Note record in his hands,” says Schaefer. “He didn’t have [money] to buy them…. And it was actually incredibly inspiring for everyone that was sitting there. He really gave one of the best treatises on why someone should listen to jazz that I’ve ever heard. So I think that was cool for us as well.”
The Story of Blue Note Records boasts premium sound quality engineered for discerning audiophiles: Each album comes on 180 gram virgin black vinyl, was remastered from the original tapes by Cohearent Audio’s Kevin Gray and pressed at Record Technology, Inc. in Camarillo, California.
The Blue Note box set officially goes on sale Tuesday and retails for $280, but customers who signed up during a special “teaser window” will have the opportunity to purchase it on Monday (April 8) at a discounted rate of $230. The series kicks off with Horace Silver’s Horace Silver Trio and Dexter Gordon’s Dexter Calling, which will be accompanied by the final box set packaging.
“We all recognize that we live in a really amazing time where access to music has never been easier,” says Maher, explaining the thinking behind the Anthology series. “And we all are exposed to and have access to really whatever music we want at all times. But what we have found, both for ourselves and for our members, is that what we end up missing is the depth. We kind of go surface-level on lots of different types of music and never really go deep enough to truly appreciate the story behind the music. And so that’s what we’re trying to do here by slowing down and really kind of building in time to digest and absorb and appreciate each individual album.”
Schaefer notes that future VMP Anthology box sets — of which he says several are already “on the docket” — will focus on a variety of different scenes, labels and even individual artists with long track records.
“A lot of the artists who we’ve already talked to about it, they’re very excited about the opportunity,” said Schaefer. “Because I think artists tend to — while they appreciate individual album reissues — I don’t think any artists feels comfortable being defined by a single album. And so the anthology format, where you’re going through multiple albums and a discography, gives them a lot better opportunity to tell their stories as artists.”
Maher adds that the Anthology concept has been tailored for music fans who might be wary of the long-term subscription model that so far the company has been based on.
“Part of the beauty of this new product is that you kind of get the depth and community elements that you would get from our subscription record of the month club,” she says, “without the commitment involved.”