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Don Cherry
Christmas Eve isn’t the obvious date for a Blue Note recording session but it was the night before Christmas in 1965 when Don Cherry, Gato Barbieri on tenor saxophone, Henry Grimes on bass and Edward Blackwell were at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs to record Complete Communion.

It marked cornettist Don Cherry’s debut for Blue Note – the first of three albums Cherry cut for the label in less than 12 months. The 29 year-old had already recorded extensively with Ornette Coleman’s group and led a couple of sessions for other labels, but this was his personal breakthrough and something of a breakthrough for the whole free-jazz movement.

Each side of the original long-playing record is a suite composed by Cherry and each suite was recorded in a single take, although not the first in either case: side one, ‘Complete Communion’ was take two and side two, ‘Elephantasy’ was take three.

‘Volatile’, ‘intense’, and ‘crackling’ have been used by critics to describe this record and the words are completely apposite. This is jazz for the homes of the brave, music that many non-musicians will find challenging, but those up for the challenge will ultimately be richly rewarded. As Billboard said in their obituary of Cherry in 1995, “By mid-decade, Cherry’s association with Gato Barbieri begot Complete Communion for the Blue Note label. It’s one of jazz’s best examples of confluence, a brash, persuasive blend of expressionism and orthodoxy.”

As themes are explored in the pieces, whether by the whole group or individual soloists, they often sound like conversations between the various players; the dialogue between Cherry and Barbieri, who had met while the latter was living in Rome, is particularly striking. The Argentinian tenor saxophonist style has been likened, during this period, to that of Cherry’s former boss, Ornette Coleman, and that no doubt was part of his appeal. But Cherry is most definitely a man with his own ideas, which is evident from his later recordings as a bandleader.

Grimes and Blackwell – the rhythm section – were, like the other two musicians, both new to the label, making this a unique recording for Blue Note. This album reflects the changing face of jazz during the mid-1960s, and its free-jazz style would become the norm as the decade wore on.

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Recorded at three separate session, two in 1949 and the other in 1950, this  was originally released in a 78rpm album of four records and then on a 10″ album by Clef Records. in 1957, following Parker’s death, it was reissued by Verve in the Genius Of Charlie Parker series as No. 4 without “Passport” and “Mohawk”; instead it had some alternate takes of other tracks.

This was the final collaborative recording by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and it is the session from 6 June 1950. The six tracks they recorded together are ‘Bloomdido’, ‘My Melancholy Baby’, ‘Relaxin’ With Lee’,’Leap Frog’, ‘An Oscar For Treadwell’ and ‘Mohawk’. At this session, besides Bird and Dizzy it’s Thelonious Monk on piano, Curley Russell (bass) and drummer Buddy Rich. ‘Passport’ is Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Al Haig (piano) Tommy Potter (bass) Max Roach (drums) and just Bird. For ‘Visa’, Carlos Vidal (bongo) and trombonist Tommy Turk are added to the musicians on ‘Passport.’

These sides hark back to recordings made by Bird and Diz for the Savoy and Dial labels, only here the recording quality allows the music to shine through, helping to make this an exhilarating listening experience. On the sides recorded by Parker and Gillespie, it’s like music in two layers. The sax and trumpet spar with one another, Monk, Russell and Rich creating a base across which the two giants stride across like gladiators. Add to this Monk’s vignette on ‘Bloomdido’ and what have you got? A be-bop bonanza!

‘I think all the guys like Bird and Dizzy contributed so much to making the steps of progress of modern music. Those guys had wonderful minds.’ –  Count Basie

Hear it here… at least, the reissued version without Visa and Passport, but with many alternate takes

Original Clef issue


Reissue on Verve in The Genius of Charlie Parker series


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Rediscovered Record – Bird & Diz (1952) | Neil P. Marsh February 26th at 1:10am

[…] Read more: Rediscovered Record […]

Empyrean isles lg
When Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Tony Williams entered Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio on 17 June 1964 it represented a step change in every respect. This was two years after Herbie’s Blue Note debut, the aptly named Takin’ Off, and the album they recorded in the summer of 1964, together with the follow-up, Maiden Voyage, should certainly be in every jazz fan’s collection.

Herbie’s first recording for Blue Note was with Donald Byrd in 1961, when the pianist was twenty-one, and at the time he was flirting with both Latin-flavoured material and a big-band setting. Empyrean Isles marks Herbie Hancock’s return to some serious hard bop. As with all his work, there is an element of the unconventional, with the pianist happy to go against the tide of musical expectations.

When he made this album, Herbie was twenty-four and his fellow musicians were similarly youthful – Hubbard was twenty-six, Carter twenty-seven, and Tony Williams just nineteen. It’s their spirit of adventure that makes this record such a joy, but this is not simply youthful exuberance: there is no less talent on display despite their collective inexperience. Herbie, Carter, and Williams were already playing together in Miles Davis’s group and their empathy is clear in every bar and beat.

All four tunes are original compositions from Herbie and both ‘One Finger Snap’ and ‘Cantaloupe Island’ have become classics. The album was later sampled by hip-hop band Us3. On ‘One Finger Snap’, its opening track, Hubbard is definitely in the driving seat, his soaring cornet full of twists and turns, yet always melodic. From the hard-bop heaven of the opener to the addictive ‘Cantaloupe’, the range of the band is remarkable – this is funky stuff that has rightly become a jazz standard.

On ‘Oliloqui Valley’ Hubbard is playing in Miles Davis’s territory and it is a beauty. The album’s closer, ‘The Egg’ is a fourteen-minute hard-bop meets free-jazz experiment featuring Carter’s pulsing bass and Williams’s march-like rolls. To get into the track requires a little more effort than what went before, but it just serves to highlight what an adventure this high-summer session turned out to be.

As Nora Kelly wrote on the original album liner notes “Empyrean Isles, four glittering jewels, beyond the dreams of men….Myth and legend clothe these Isles in mystery, for they are elusive and said to vanish at the approach of ordinary mortals….”

“They may be my tunes, but the music belongs to the guys in the band. They all make the music, it’s not just my thing.” Herbie Hancock

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Richard Olsen January 29th at 12:31am

Your SPOTIFY is impoosible!

Have tried many times to sign on ..........impossible.

Richard Olsen

Recorded over three days on, 6 and 9 February, and 20 May, 1963 in New York City this classic album was released the following year and immediately caused controversy. It’s title comes from the idea that Bill Evans played three separate tracks and over-dubbed himself to build up the complex arrangements.

There were some that thought this sacrilege and an impure art as it was impossible to recreate in concert. It is with the passing of time acknowledged as a masterpiece by a genius. Producers David Foster and Tommy LiPuma both cite this album as an inspiration; many others agree and 1964 it won the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

Evans played Glen Gould’s piano, CD 318 on the recording that was created out of a ‘conversation’ between the first two takes with subtle embelishments added on the third take. As it says on the liner notes of the album regarding ‘Bill three’, “He was their Greek chorus, and sometimes he had the best lines.” If you have any doubts just listen to ‘Stella By Starlight’ it is shows off Evans’s genius in all its glory

The cover photography is by the celebrated photographer, Roy DeCarava

 “Those hands were thrust in the slash side pockets of his windbreaker and he was all hunched up with the bitter cold. I thought: So that’s what genius looks like.” – Gene Lees on the liner notes of the album.


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Steve Grathwohl February 26th at 5:43pm

Yes, an undoubted masterpiece. The closest analog I can think of is Hume's "Dialogues concerning natural religion"---a remarkable mind in conversation with itself.

mindfulkettle February 26th at 5:51pm

Reblogged this on The Mindful Kettle.

Luiz Roberto February 26th at 7:29pm

..."There were some that thought this sacrilege and an impure art as it was impossible to recreate in concert"...sacrilege for me is saying it's not a masterpiece...and who said that art would be impure if it couldn't be recreated live in concert ?...

Gib Veconi February 26th at 8:51pm

This recording represented a groundbreaking concept in 1964, and few if any other pianists could have pulled it off. Bill later recorded "Further Conversations with Myself," and "New Conversations." The breathtaking arrangements and playing on the latter make it my personal favorite.

CommunicateAsia February 26th at 10:54pm

Reblogged this on CommunicateAsia and commented:
I vote yes, a true masterpiece.

Jedd Carby February 27th at 12:30am

While I am a huge Bill Evans fan, I had a hard time with repeated listens to this album. I found it too busy and often times cluttered. That being said, there were some great moments here. I think that I will persist with it, as I like the concept and feel I haven't tapped into how good this really is yet.

JoYcelyn Avery February 27th at 1:45am

Don be doin' so much sloggin' in the bl0ggin'; rather open your ears as well as you can and take great apportionments of time tolisten listen listen! If this is a bit much and even if not give "Left to Right " a go. Unique, I believe.

Jedd Carby February 27th at 7:49am

It is a great album, rather, I just have not been able to Enjoy it with as much ease as some of the other Bill Evans albums. Thanks for your suggestions!

Craig Lawless January 21st at 8:17pm

Little-known fact: the song "NYC's No Lark" is an anagram of and tribute by Evans to Sonny Clark, who had recently died. It's a great album to listen to with headphones on...the intricacies of the 3 voices become less "busy" when they are immediately within your head through headphones. I first heard the album on headphones in the library at SUNY Potsdam in the Fall of 1976. The fact that I remember when, where and how I first heard it should indicate the artistic weight this album carries with me to this day.

From One Charlie To Another…

17th January, 2015
posted in: Jazz Greats

Charlie-Watts-Ode-To-A-High-Fly lg
In March 1955 Charlie Parker died, he was still only 34 years old. Six years later twenty-year-old Charles Robert Watts paid tribute to one of the men who inspired him to become a jazz drummer. According to Charlie Watt’s mother, “He took to it straight away, and often used to play jazz records and join in on his drums.” According to Charlie ” It was just a collection of bits and pieces, but I got a lot of fun out of it. Any sort of Jazz interested me, so I taught myself by listening to other people’s records and watching drummers.”

Charlie was working as a fulltime graphic designer and a part-time drummer. He had left art school in July 1960- and after working as a tea boy in an advertising agency he got his chance to work as a designer. In mid 1961 he was also playing drums twice a week in a coffee bar, but by September he was playing with a band at the Troubadour Club in Chelsea. It’s here he met Alexis Korner who asked him to join his band, but young Charlie had other ideas, instead he moved to Denmark to work

It was while he was at art school that he wrote a and illustrated a book he called, ‘Ode To A High Flying Bird’, the bird being, Charlie Parker, the jazz saxophonist who Charlie loved so much. When Charlie became a member of the Rolling Stones in January 1963 his jazz drumming took a back seat, but not his passion for the music, which he has loved and played ever since whenever his commitments with the Stones allowed.

Charlie did Ode To A High Flying Bird was as a children’s book for his portfolio, with a narrative of Parker’s life (“Soon everybody was digging what Bird blew. . . . His nest was made”) along with simple whimsical drawings that illustrated the narrative.

Late in 1964, according to Charlie, “This guy who published ‘Rolling Stones Monthly’ saw my book and said ‘Ah, there’s a few bob in this!'” The 36 page book was published by Beat Publications, London. on 17 January 1965 and cost 7 shillings (35p/70 US cents)
Charlie Watts Bird
Charlie’s love of jazz and his fame as one of rock’s best drummers allowed him to pursue his passion for jazz. One of the jazz albums he recorded was in 1992 and it was a ’Tribute To Charlie Parker’. Charlie Watts took his album ‘on the road’ and played it live. His concerts included such Parker compositions as ‘Cool Blues,’ played by the quintet, and ‘Dewey Square,’ played with strings and a version of ‘Just Friends.’ The long-time Stones’ backing singer, Bernard Fowler served as a narrator at the concerts, reading extracts from, Ode to a High Flying Bird, as a segue between some of the music.

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50 Greatest Jazz albums
We have decided to attempt to come up with a definitive list of the 50 Greatest Jazz Albums of all time. Impossible, you are probably thinking, and it probably is, but rather than just thinking of our favourites we decided to take a good look through the web to see what other lists there are and combine our findings.

As usual we expect many of you to disagree, sometimes strongly, but as usual we will love hearing from you.

50. Thelonious Monk – Genius of Modern Music vol.1 & 2.
49. Count Basie – the Original American Decca Recordings
48. Bud Powell – The Amazing Bud Powell Vo.1
47. Weather Report – Heavy Weather
46. John Coltrane & Thelonious Monk – At Carnegie Hall
45. Horace Silver – Song For My Father
44. Grant Green – Idle Moments
43. Count Basie – The Complete Atomic Basie
42. Hank Mobley – Soul Station
41. Charlie Christian – The Genius of the Electric Guitar
40. Art Pepper meets the Rhythm Section
39. John Coltrane – My Favourite Things
38. Benny Goodman – At Carnegie Hall 1938
37. Wes Montgomery – The incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
36. The Mahavishnu Orchestra With John McLaughlin – Inner Mounting Flame
35. Clifford Brown and Max Roach – Clifford Brown & Max Roach
34. Andrew Hill – Point of Departure
33. Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters
32. Dexter Gordon – Go
31. Sarah Vaughan – With Clifford Brown
30. The Quintet – Jazz at Massey Hall
29. Bill Evans Trio – Waltz For Debby
28. Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
27. Bill Evans – Sunday at the village Vanguard
26. Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners
25. Keith Jarrett – the Koln Concert
24. John Coltrane – Giant Steps
23. Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage
22. Duke Ellington – Ellington at Newport
21. Cecil Taylor – Unit Structures
20. Charlie Parker – Complete Savoy and Dial Studio recordings
19. Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool
18. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’
17. Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity
16. Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch
15. Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth
14. Erroll Garner – Concert By the Sea
13. Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil
12. Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz/Gilberto
11. Louis Armstrong – Best of the Hot 5s and 7s
10. John Coltrane – Blue Train
9. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
8. Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
7. Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else
6. Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
5. Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come
4. Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
3. Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out
2. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
1. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

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giandomenico de cicco January 17th at 7:12pm

The first Bird album 20th & the first Ellington 22th. Isn't serious

Al Milchem January 28th at 6:13pm

All great selections. I have had the good fortune to collect this wonderful music in one form or the other over the years, since the 1940's. And there is so much more of it not included here!

giannipapa January 28th at 8:12pm

I would certainly recommend the list to anyone willing to explore jazz, as these are all wonderful albums worth listening to. However the list offers limited scope for excitement past the introductory level. After that, in my opinion, the best 'greatest jazz albums' lists should be idiosyncratic and surprising - this is not.

No One Ever Agrees! January 28th at 11:05pm

[…] here goes anyway! The 50 Greatest Jazz Albums of All Time? - The Jazz Labels - The 50 Greatest Jazz Albums of All Time… Myles B. Astor, Senior Editor, Positive Feedback;, Executive Editor […]

Cool Struttin'
Blue Note Record’s first session of 1958 was this week in 1958, on 5 January to be precise. Unsurprisingly it was at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studio, the one in the living room of his parent’s house and it was a quintet led by pianist, Sonny Clark that featured Art Farmer (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto saxophone), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). The title of the album was Cool Struttin‘… and strut they certainly did, and cool they very definitely are. As Art Farmer said, “A primary quality in Sonny Clark’s playing is that there’s no strain in it. Some people sound like they are trying to swing, Sonny just flows naturally along.”

The title derives from the opening track and it establishes the mood perfectly. The entire album exudes cool and both ‘Cool Struttin’’ and ‘Blue Minor’ are stand-outs on an album with not a single bad moment. The latter track, featuring Clark’s Monkesque styling, had been in the pianist’s repertoire for some time before he recorded it; he was waiting to get the right group of players around him first.

Clark had met Farmer in Pasadena, Los Angeles, where both men were living, and immediately liked the trumpeter’s playing – check out his solo on Miles Davis’s ‘Slippin’ At Bells’ on which Farmer proves that he’s very much his own man. Clark had already recorded extensively for Blue Note as a sideman to Hank Mobley, Curtis Fuller, John Jenkins and Cliff Jordan, as well as a band leader during the previous 12 months.

Clark’s love of the blues is evident throughout the album and ‘this hard bop classic’, according to The New York Times, is far from one-dimensional. Clark’s swing credentials are nowhere better displayed than on ‘Deep Night’ a song co-written by pre-war crooner Rudy Vallee, on which his piano playing comes over effortlessly as Art Farmer testifies. Likewise, Jackie McLean, still just twenty-six years old when this record was made, plays long, smooth and beguilingly.

And finally there’s the cover. Far from a typical Reid Miles design but that is what in part made him such a genius. Miles captures the mood of the music superbly. The legs on the cover belong to Blue Note founder, Alfred Lion’s wife, Ruth.

This is sophisticated New York jazz of the finest kind. Listen to it on Spotify

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An Evening With Blue Note

17th November, 2014
posted in: Blue Note

Blue Note Records at Ace Hotel, Shoreditch, London
Thursday 20th & Friday 21st November

As part of the label’s 75th Anniversary celebrations, Blue Note Records will be hosting two special FREE events this Thursday and Friday at Ace Hotel, Shoreditch, London.

For both evenings, the events will run from 17:30 until 19:00, which gives everyone time if you plan to attend one of the EFG London Jazz Festival concerts afterwards.
Thursday 2oth November – 17:30 until 19:00
Author Richard Havers will be hosting an early evening talk all about Blue Note Records and his new book “Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression” [Thames & Hudson] and the accompanying CD box set. Richard’s book celebrates over seven decades of extraordinary music from a record company that has stayed true to its founders’ commitment to ‘Uncompromising Expression’. The talk will unravel the label’s rich history as a story and the evening will certainly guarantee to convert the jazz-curious or deepen the love of the already converted.

There will be a talk by the author, Q&As, music from the Blue Note archives, competitions, giveaways and much more.

Friday 21st November – 17:30 until 19:00
Joining Richard Havers and radio presenter & DJ Chris Philips [JazzFM] will be the very special Blue Note artists Robert Glasper & Derrick Hodge [plus other members of the Blue Note 7th Anniversary Band). They will talk about their love of Blue Note, the music, the label’s rich history, the story of the jazz movement that it created in its wake and the art of the LP sleeves. They will also be playing their favourite Blue Note tracks and there will be competitions and giveaways too.

Both events will be free entry. From 17:30 until 19:00 at Ace Hotel, 100 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JQ.
The Ace Hotel is boutique, beautiful and they love music, art & culture amongst over great things.
Click here for Ace Hotel Map

Spaces subject to availability – please turn up early to avoid disappointment.

Robert Glasper, Jason Moran, Kendrick Scott, Lionel Loueke, Marcus Strickland, Ambrose Akinmusire and Derrick Hodge will also be performing at the Celebrating 75 Years of Blue Note concert at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 22nd November, as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival
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This week Takuya Kuroda made the UK’s Viral Top 10 which is great news for a both this talented Japanese trumpet player and jazz. The track in question is ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ featuring José James on vocals. Takuya Kuroda is one of the most forward-thinking musicians around today, but for this soul jazz track he has gone back to cover a Roy Ayers classic; it was released by Ayers in 1976 as the title track of his Polydor Records album of the same name. ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ has been sampled numerous times by hip hop artists including Brand Nubian, P.M. Dawn, Common, Def as well as by R&B singer Mary J. Blige. Takuya and José cover the original with both reverence and a frashness that makes it sound like a brand new track.

After studying music in Japan, Kuroda relocated to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music. While at Berklee, Kuroda befriended vocalist José James, who invited Kuroda to record with him. Kuroda appeared on James’ 2010 sophomore album, Blackmagic, and later on No Beginning No End — for which he also wrote the horn arrangements. In 2013, Kuroda signed with Blue Note Records and recorded his third solo album, the José James-produced Rising Son, from where ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ is taken.

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