Wrensilva Presents, Volume 1: Blue Note Selections with Don Was

From an early age, Don Was aspired to be part of the iconic Blue Note jazz scenes of the late 1930s and beyond. The artists dressed in hip suits wore dark black sunglasses and played exceptionally innovative music that altered the entire genre. Their sought-after records were similarly cloaked in compelling album artwork that combined candid photography of recording sessions with musically inspired graphic design, instantly recognizable by their vibrant duotone portraits.


We collaborated with Don Was — multi-Grammy-winning producer and President of Blue Note Records — to curate a special limited edition vinyl box set that spans multiple decades of Blue Notes’ artistic explorations. Wrensilva Presents, Volume 1: Blue Note Selections includes three innovative records that stand the test of time. Don’s involvement, and the distinct combination of records, make it a truly unique collection.

These records contain visually captivating album artwork (which are stories in themselves) and iconic tracklists that are ideal for your first needle drop on a Wrensilva. The best way to celebrate the next generation Wrensilva Console Collection and Blue Notes’ 85th anniversary is by sharing the music we love.

Master Record Selects

Don met with us at our LA Listening Studio to collaborate on selecting the three iconic records for Wrensilva Presents: Blue Note Selections. Of course, we dropped the needle on the records, too. But before we get into that, let’s get to know Don and the record label behind the legendary music.

Blue Note Records was founded in 1939 and soon became the vanguard of emerging jazz expressions — promoting bebop, hard bop, post-bop, soul jazz, avante-garde, and modern artists, up until the sounds of today. As such, they are among the most widely respected jazz labels, boasting many of the genre’s most important works in high-quality pressings.

Don has vast knowledge of Blue Note’s catalog, not to mention expertise in musicianship and music production — as heard by both his playing and his celebrated record production for Bonnie Raitt, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, to name a few. Don understands music on a profound level, and he is passionate about sharing the magic of music.

Our Handpicked Records

As we dropped the needle on each record, and brilliant music began filling the sun-filled listening studio, Don talked us through what makes each record remarkable. From iconic album photography and graphic design, to music that pushes the boundaries of possibility. Similar marvels run through Blue Note’s entire catalog, but these records shine an especially bright artistic beacon.


Blue Train by John Coltrane

Immersing himself in the stark band photos of the record jacket, Don started out with Blue Train by John Coltrane (Tone Poet edition), the first record included in Wrensilva Presents: Blue Note Selections. Coltrane’s ingenious jazz style is a landmark in the genre, and this album in particular lives high on the summit of his artistic achievements. But the music isn't the only iconic aspect of the album. The famous duotone portrait is also integral to the album’s legacy. The backside of the record jacket even has a detailed write-up on Coltrane that calls his style a “probing into things far off, unknown and mysterious.”

The stylus slid smoothly into the groove of the opening track, “Blue Train,” and Coltrane’s coolly captivating melody resounded with the familiar emotional impact of wistfulness and optimism. Talking with Wrensilva co-founder Scott Salyer, Don broke down the album in his
own words.

Don Was discussing Blue Train by John Coltrane at our LA Listening Studio.

“It's a classic record from 1957,” Don began. “I think it captures the vibe of ’50s hipness better than any other record that's out there. It catches John Coltrane, who is certainly one of the most important musicians of all time, at a really momentous point in his life. He just left Miles Davis' group, and he was also paying particular attention to good health. So he was a very sound mind and body. And he started doing a summer residency with Thelonious Monk. Now, Thelonious Monk changed the rules of composition and changed the way people approached music harmonically. And you can see that starting to rub off on John Coltrane.

Even if Coltrane (and jazz) isn’t already your forté, this album may very well be the one that gets you hooked. “It's a great gateway into John Coltrane for people,” Don added. “It was one of Coltrane's favorite records of his life. He has talked about it a lot. He felt he really got the thing that he went after on this album.”

John Coltrane at his “Blue Train” session of Sept. 15, 1957. (Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images LLC)

Shades of Blue: Madlib Invades Blue Note by Madlib

Don introduced the next record, Shades of Blue: Madlib Invades Blue Note. Dropping the needle on this album by Madlib — music producer, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, and rapper — evoked an atmosphere of revelatory creative genius that was both street-smart and studio savvy. Driven by groovy downtempo beats and complimentary instrumental layers, this remix album is the culmination of Madlib’s diverse talents — and his creative access to Blue Note’s iconic catalog of master tapes.

Don Was talks about the significance of the record Madlib Shades
of Blue.

“It's a pretty radical record that impacted a lot of people,” Don expressed. “Other hip-hop DJ remixers had come in and worked on Blue Note records before Madlib did. But there's something about Madlib that he turned black and white to Technicolor. He's just so good. And he's such a brilliant texturalist. I'd say it's almost like going from Rembrandt to Cézanne. He's an impressionist. He started introducing different shades of orange [laughs] that you didn't hear in this music before. So, it's the way he approached this. He is a genius as an arranger, really, which is what differentiates this and makes this stand out. This was a popular record. This sold well over a million records. And I think it brought a whole new audience into Blue Note's music.”

But, as Don mentioned, Madlib wasn’t the first hip-hop artist to reinvent Blue Note’s catalog by sampling. Blue Note music was familiar to those within the hip-hop zeitgeist, but Madlib advanced the craft and expanded its reach, even influencing later prominent jazz musicians.

“A bunch of great breakbeats came from Blue Note records from the ’60s and ’70s. So hip-hop fans know these samples, and it kind of moved jazz into a whole new era. It's very interesting that jazz in some ways begat hip hop. But then hip-hop started influencing the next generation of jazz musicians — musicians like Robert Glasper, who knew J Dilla — and then incorporated hip-hop into jazz. So now there's a generation, or two, or three — Domi and JD Beck are two generations past Robert Glasper, but they're informed by hip hop. They're also informed by Thelonious Monk. So this was a very influential record.”

Don Was talks about Norah Jones’ Little Broken Hearts album.

Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones

The final record in this exclusive box set is Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones. 

The first track’s opening lyrics, “Good morning / My thoughts on leaving are back on the table,” set up the emotionally tense story that begins unfolding — all sung through Jones’ signature soulful voice that has the fine grittiness of smoke and the smooth delicacy of silk.

Norah Jones Photo by: Frank W. Ockenfels

“It's the first one that she turned in when I first started working at Blue Note,” Don said. “I love this record. It's a brutally honest breakup record. And she's very forthcoming in the lyrics. The textures that she and Danger Mouse came up with to set against the songs really underscore the sentiment of each song. They don't distract from it at all. But they underscore it in a highly original way. Texturally, I mean, that's what everybody loves about Danger Mouse is the way he uses the analog synths and weaves a very emotional, moody, and ultra-modern kind of fabric around songs. But he appreciates songs. He stays out of the way of the vocals. So, I think it's a really beautiful setting to hear Norah's
voice against.”

While some consider this record to be a departure from Norah’s earlier jazz-and-folk-based crooning compositions, Don hears it as an expression of Norah’s earliest artistic vision. She’s a multifaceted artist who can’t easily be boxed in.

“I think even from her first record, just to simply categorize her as like a jazz pianist singer, I don't think does her justice,” Don added. “Even on the first album, she was tackling Hank Williams songs and turning them kind of inside out. She always experimented with different textures, but I think if you'd listened to her vocals — they're incredibly consistent. By the way, same thing Miles Davis did. Miles was always identifiable as Miles, but he was constantly changing the textures around him and that's what made those records classic. This album is definitely adventurous, but I think she's always adventurous. I think she's always sincere and always sings from the heart and soul — and so this is just a classic Norah
record to me.”

An Evocative Listening Experience

These legendary records are masterpieces of Blue Note Records’ iconic legacy. Spanning diverse genres and artistic endeavors, each one takes you to a different place in time and emotion. It’s a specially curated listening experience meant to make your first needle drop — and the many spins afterwards — unforgettable. If you’re delving into HiFi sound, we want you to have iconic records for the journey, soWrensilva Presents: Blue Note Selections will be included with every new console order. 

When asked what he would want people to take away from these albums, Don said that “if people open up and allow these three albums into their lives, their lives are going to be better. They're going to get a rich experience that will really make them feel better. Three very different experiences, but each equally evocative and communicative.”

After choosing the three records for our collaborative box set, Don leaned into the sound of the Wrensilva console itself. “I really like the sound,” Don expressed, as he sat criss-cross beside the console. “It's not hyping any frequencies. It's very honest. I could trust this. If this was in my living room, I could go home and play the mixes from the studio and trust what I was hearing — which is a very big deal because you can't always. When I sat down in front of the speakers like that, I enjoyed listening to music. It's supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be an experience. It's not work. It's a magic
carpet ride.”

The newly reimagined Wrensilva M1 in Tobacco Walnut spins a Blue Note record. The three chosen albums can be seen directly above.