Music | A Continuous Lean.

Smoking Blue Note Style

Sep 24th, 2015 | Categories: Jared Paul Stern, Music, Photography | by Jared Paul Stern


Blue Note’s jazz records are true icons of American cool. A little ironic, then, that the music label was founded by two white guys from Berlin. One of them, Francis Wolff, began his career in Germany as a commercial photographer and carried his camera along to every Blue Note recording session in New York City in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Many of his images were incorporated into Blue Note’s now legendary album covers, and a new book by musician and producer Michael Cuscuna from Flammarion being published next month offers up some of his best work along with a number of previously unpublished pix. Over 100 of Blue Note’s most revered artists, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Hank Mobley, Grant Green and Sonny Rollins are included in the book, which features more than 150 of Wolff’s shots.

Naturally recording a jazz album required a lot of smoking, and it seems like Blue Note definitely did its part to boost the shares of Philip Morris; though while many may have mastered the art of lighting up like Art Blakey, hardly any could come close to playing the drums with the same panache. The photos of Wolff (and later Blue Note designer Reid Miles) were candids of artists at work and not staged, however, unlike the many copies and “homages” in the years since, and there’s a lot of great stuff here to pore over. Wolff “didn’t waste shots reaching for an image,” Cuscuna writes. “His eye and his technique nailed it, usually in the first take.” Originals of some of Wolff’s photographs can be found at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC. The book, called simply Blue Note, is available for pre-order on Amazon. We recommend making some space on the shelf now.


Grant Green, 1961 © Francis Wolff Blue Note

This Year in Music | Dudes With Guitars

Dec 16th, 2014 | Categories: Al James, Music | by Al James


Last year we called it early and looked at some albums that were floating just below the mainstream. This year we’re highlighting the revival of a genre that critics keep saying has been dead for awhile. Across magazines, newspapers and blogs, writers have lamented the demise of guitar rock in all of its forms – punk, country, blues, garage, etc… They say that dudes with guitars are dead. They’ve been replaced by dudes with synthesizers, dudes with laptops, and dudes with samplers. This year, however, might be an exception. You don’t have to search too hard to discover that 2014 was actually an incredible year for straight-ahead, guitar-toting songwriters. Here are some of the best:

Sturgill Simpson
Though he worships at the altar of The Highwaymen, Sturgill is absolutely the genuine article. His Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is a classic country album filtered through a contemporary lens of drugs and existential dread. His songwriting point of view is fresh and his voice is timeless. Now if only the rest of Nashville could follow his lead.

Hiss Golden Messenger
After a series of great folk albums over the last few years, North Carolina’s M.C. Taylor dug deeper on Lateness of Dancers and struck gold. He and his band channel Dylan, The Band, The Dead and J.J. Cale like no one else has recently, keeping one foot firmly planted in swampy Southern R&B.

Dim The Lights | NYC’s Bygone Music Venues

Oct 16th, 2014 | Categories: History, Jake Gallagher, Music, New York City | by Jake Gallagher


On any given night within New York’s incalculable array of musical venues, you can find pretty much every act imaginable. From whisper quiet jazz quartets, to over-distorted art rockers, to spoken word slam poets backed by garbage can percussionists, the nightly roster of musical acts can be as diverse as the city itself.

Regardless of your melodic tastes, there’s bound to be a show each night that you’ll find at the very least amusing, but honestly the venues themselves all fall a bit flat. Music clubs in New York used to have as much (if not far more) character as the bands that played in them, but nowadays, these venues just sort of blend together. Whether big or small they all just feel boring, if not altogether sterile. So let’s reset the record and raise a glass, or at least raise the volume to New York’s rowdy, raucous, rough-around-the-edges clubs of yore.

Post Break-Up Beatles Style.

Aug 15th, 2014 | Categories: Jake Gallagher, Music, Style | by Jake Gallagher


The Beatles of the late sixties were not the same band of mop-topped musicians that had taken America by storm in 1964. By the time they officially called in quits in 1970 John, Paul, Ringo, and George had all separated themselves from the clean-cut look and crisp sound that defined the band’s early years. Each man had outgrown The Beatles in their own way, and so when they finally decided to end the era of The Fab Four, they were all eager to forge their own paths. The latter years of the band had been marked by psychedelic explorations and a more free-spirited approach to just about everything, which was an attitude that each Beatle seemed to carry on through their solo careers throughout the seventies.


Pining for the Newport Folk Festival.

Jun 26th, 2014 | Categories: History, Music | by Michael Williams

It’s about the time of year for the Newport Folk Festival, what has become my most liked musical outing of the year. While it doesn’t seem like I am going to make it this year (the damn thing sells out pretty quickly these days — as does the town), I got to thinking about Newport Folk recently and dug my way into these great old clips from the golden age of the festival, the heady days of 1960s.

The modern festival stands on its own with an excellently selected cast of old and new acts, a bill that is perennially stacked with classic performers and emerging artists. The crowd is a great mix as well, with a beautiful cross-section of people. It’s a respectful bunch too, helping to cement the modern 3-day music fest’s place at the top of its class.

The Rolling Stones Fateful Trip to Morocco.

Jun 14th, 2014 | Categories: England, History, Hollywood, Jake Gallagher, Music | by Jake Gallagher


Four years before they were exiled on Main Street The Rolling Stones, facing mounting legal troubles back in England, embarked on a fateful trip to Morocco which would forever change the course of the fledgling band. It was February of ’67 and the English press was having a field day with the Stones in the wake of a widely publicized raid at Richard’s Redlands estate which left both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards facing serious drug charges that jeopardized the future of the band. With their homeland as unfriendly as ever their handlers urged the bruised group to get the hell out of London. Morocco, an ever popular escape for Westerners, was foreign and fashionable enough for the five fresh-faced musicians, and so they set out for North Africa.


Brian Jones, the group’s original frontman and founder, had been to Morocco before and was already familiar with the country’s famous assortment of markets, music, and most importantly drugs, but before the trip really even began he grew ill. The original plan had been for Jones, his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, and Richards to be driven through France and Spain to meet up with Jagger in Morocco, but once Jones became sick he was forced to stay behind in Toulouse, France. Pallenberg and Richards forged ahead though, and with Jones temporarily out of the picture the two fell right into each others arms, starting a relationship that would last for the next twelve years.

Made in the Land of Wheat and Maize.

Feb 5th, 2014 | Categories: Music, Video | by Michael Williams

Generally I feel comfortable away from home. I’ve lived in New York for 12 years and I don’t ever think I will feel like a New Yorker. I don’t think I ever want to. When I say “home” I am referring to Ohio. It’s a place I have barely lived as an adult, but it is still where I feel like I fit best into the world. There’s some sort of Midwestern draw that comes back to me very quickly when I am there. My business partner and I are both from Ohio and I think we both like to hire people from the Midwest because we all seem to think about the world in similar ways. We just make sense to each other. It’s also the reason we love to work with Red Wing. Part of it is the spirit of the company, and part of it is the people. Nothing is forced and nothing is insincere. If something doesn’t make sense, they don’t do it.

A few months ago I flew to Minneapolis to see Red Wing, but we didn’t drive down to its headquarters on the Mississippi, we got in a car and drove a few hours straight into the Wisconsin countryside to Eau Claire. With the talented director Andrew David Watson, we set out to make a film about the supremely talented musician Justin Vernon. We knew that he had an affinity for Red Wing and that he has been wearing the boots for years, having learned of the brand the same way I did, from his dad. More than make a marketing video, Red Wing really just wanted to tell Justin’s story because it is honest and real.