Klokers adopts the feel and the colours of this musical genre in a resolutely stylish blue and black model.
Through translation, dark thoughts – also known as “blue devils” in English -, simply became known as the blues in musical terms. The blue note in question – which originally implied a hint of darkness -, appeared during the 19th century in the southern United States among the Afro-American populations who were subject to racial segregation. A handful of artists began playing or singing out their sadness and melancholy with a variation of roughly a semi-tone. And thus began the blues, a musical style combining rhythm and languor, which was absorbed at the beginning of the following century by the emerging jazz scene.
Jazz was first played a century ago in New Orleans, in shady, dimly-lit establishments. The cigar and cigarette smoke added a blue touch to the somewhat seedy atmosphere. Some historians consider the origin of the word jazz to be closely linked with the activities taking place in such bars and in brothels. It’s believed to come from the American slang word gism or gasm, referring to sexual energy. The term came to define a new musical genre performed in such venues, where dancing was commonplace… at least in those looking out onto the street!
In 1917, the American government ordered the closure of all of these establishments in the Louisiana town. The jazzmen instead went to Chicago, Los Angeles or New York. Very soon afterwards, in Manhattan just as elsewhere in North America and even in Europe, they began performing in more upmarket clubs where only the bluish atmosphere of the early years was retained. Jazz also proliferated under the names of swing or middle during this interwar period, one which was rich, amazing and creative in every way.
The 1920s and 1930s also saw the emergence of the record industry. In 1939, Alfred Lion and Franck Wolff, two German Jews who had left the old continent before the outbreak of the Second World War, founded the Blue Note Records label in New York. Both huge jazz fans since they were youngsters in Berlin, the two partners followed their instincts and were careful not to interfere in the work produced by their recruits. This unusual approach certainly enhanced the resulting recordings, which even today are still considered as monuments in the history of this musical genre. Little by little, they published work by all of the great names, including Sydney Bechet, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell… , while remaining open to other emerging movements and talents.
While Alfred Lion produced the recordings, Franck Wolff worked away in the shadows at Blue Note Records’ studio. Originally a photographer, he immortalised the jazzmen during their performances. Later on, his monochrome portraits would be used to illustrate the vinyl record covers, the unique aesthetic qualities of which contributed to the label’s success. In the mid-1950s, the album covers were designed by the graphical artist Reid Miles. This American loved to play with typography, rhythm and contrasts, creating an unusual style which inspired Klokers when designing its new version of the Klok-01, superbly combining black and blue. Miles Reid made skilful use of volume and empty space in the pictures, often using bleed techniques, to produce elegant, sophisticated and innovative record covers. Some of these are today considered as works of art in their own right. And that’s without even mentioning the wonderful music they contain!
Text: Frédéric Martin-Bernard