Francis Wolff (April 6, 1907 – March 8, 1972) was a record company executive, photographer and record producer. Wolff's skills, as an executive and a photographer, were important contributions to the success of the Blue Note record label.
Jakob Franz "Franny" Wolff was born in Berlin, Germany, where he became a Jazz enthusiast, despite the government ban placed on this type of music after 1933. After a career as a commercial photographer in Germany, Wolff emigrated to the United States. A Jew, he left Berlin for New York in the late 1930s. In 1939 in New York his childhood friend Alfred Lion had co-founded Blue Note Records (with sleeping partner Max Margulis, who soon dropped out of any involvement in the company), and Wolff joined Lion in running the company. During Lion's war service, Wolff worked for Milt Gabler at the Commodore Music Store, and together they maintained the company's catalogue until Lion was discharged.
Until Lion retired in 1967, Wolff concentrated on the financial affairs of the business and only supervised occasional recording sessions produced during his visits to Europe to see surviving members of his family. For the last four years of his life, when Blue Note was no longer an independent label, Wolff shared production responsibilities with pianist and arranger Duke Pearson. He died in New York City.
Francis Wolff took photographs during the recordings sessions, usually shot during session rehearsals, throughout the period of Lion's involvement in Blue Note Records. They were used on publicity material and LP album sleeves, and have continued to be used in CD reissue booklets. The two collections of photographs listed below contain entirely separate selections of the many thousands Wolff shot over a thirty-year period.
- Julian Benedikt: Blue Note – A Story of Modern Jazz. Documentary film, Germany 1996.
- Eric Friedler (film director): It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story. Documentary film, Produzent: Wim Wenders, Germany 2018.
- Sophie Huber: Blue Note Records - Beyond the notes. Documentary film, Switzerland, 2018.
- Michael Cuscuna, Charlie Lourie & Oscar Schnider (1995), The Blue Note Years: The Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff, Rizzoli, ISBN 0-8478-1912-4
- Michael Cuscuna, Charlie Lourie & Oscar Schnider (2000), Blue Note: The Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff, Universe (Rizzoli), ISBN 0-7893-0493-7
References and notes
- "It's a bit of an irony that the Blue Note label — synonymous with jazz, the seminal American music form — was created by two German immigrants." - Richard Cook speaking about his Blue Note Records, The Biography.
- Thomas Schmid (14 October 2010). "Das erste Opfer des Linksterrorismus". Axel Springer SE (WELT und N24), Berlin. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
- Goldmann, A.J. (December 1, 2009) "Berlin Jews and Jazz – The German Roots of Blue Note". Forward.
- Official website of the film, access date 26. September 2018.