THE JAZZ WORD

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Ronnie Foster lgLike every Hammond organ player, Ronnie Foster owes a debt to Jimmy Smith, but on his first recording session as a leader he takes the instrument into new areas on this funky soul-meets-R & B-meets-jazz album. Foster had made his Blue Note debut when he was just 18 years of age on Grant Green’s Alive album. Two Headed Freap was recorded on 20 & 21 January 1972 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, so you know it’s going to sound great.

Like so many of the records released by Blue Note in this period, it fails to excite the traditional fans of the label but Two-Headed Freap, like a number of other albums from the early 1970s, laid the foundations for the acid-jazz movement. At the time of its release Jazz Journal said, “It is sad that a label with the reputation of Blue Note should be reduced to recording the casual meanderings of background pop music.” What utter tosh!

Foster composed five of the eight tracks and the others are skilfully selected covers; of these, Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ shows just why Foster was so respected and in such demand as a sideman, and not just for jazz artists. *George Benson was an admirer and Foster later played on his Breezin’ album, contributing the exquisite ballad, ‘Lady’.

On his own debut, the best of Foster’s compositions are the laid-back ‘Summer Song’, which features Gene Bertoncini’s Benson-like guitar, and a track that clearly demonstrates the difference between Foster and Jimmy Smith, ‘Mystic Brew’. Foster’s playing is more sustained, there’s less attack and he plays along the melody line in a more fluid way – which is not to say he’s better; just different. ‘Mystic Brew’ has been frequently sampled by artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, and by DJ Madlib on his 2003 Blue Note album, Shades of Blue.

Like many other jazz albums from this era, Two-Headed Freap has the feel of a Blaxploitation movie about it, and that’s not a criticism. The album is very definitely of its time and should be appreciated as such. The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD reviewer is of the same opinion as the critic from Jazz Journal and ignores the album, which says a lot about how the jazz police see this era. Don’t let them brainwash you!

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John Lodge April 3rd at 9:40am

A great album from a great era for music in general. FOR ME the 70's was, and remains, the most creative all round. I love the 60's too, but was probably just too young to have appreciated it, especially the early 60's jazz scene.

Maiden Voyage_edited-1On 11 March 1965 Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and Stu Martin (drums) along with Herbie Hancock were at Rudy Van Gelder’s Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey with producer Alfred Lion to record the pianist’s new Blue Note album. The first song they put down was ‘Maiden Voyage, followed by ‘Little One’ and ‘Dolphin’s Dance’, but in the final analysis these tracks were rejected as unsuitable.

Six days later on 17 March Hancock was back in the same studio and this time he cut not just a defining album in his career, but a defining album for Blue Note Records and jazz. Whereas there was something missing at that first day’s recording nothing was missing, not a note, not a nuance, there was simply perfection. For their second attempt at recording Herbie’s five compositions it was Tony Williams rather than Stu Martin (Sonny Rollins’s drummer at the time) that was behind the drum kit.

Maiden Voyage is Hancock’s follow-up to Empyrean Isles, and is an album that is totally different in form and feel, aside from the obvious addition of tenor saxophonist George Coleman who, like most of the others, had been playing in Miles Davis’s band for the previous two years. Departing from the hard bop of Hancock’s 1964 album Maiden Voyage is more mellow, with gentle composition that have more of a chamber-jazz vibe – it has even has been called a sound sculpture. But do not for a minute think this makes it in any way less exciting; this is innovative musical exploration of the highest order. Hancock’s time with Miles Davis comes across in his playing, but in no way is this simply a pastiche of Miles’s music. Just listen to the closing crescendo on ‘Survival of the Fittest’: it owes more to Rachmaninoff than Miles Davis.

The album’s title track was originally titled ‘TV jingle’ until Jean Hancock, Herbie’s sister, renamed it, and it sets the tone and the theme for the album. Ironically, many years later, the track was used in a TV commercial by Fabergé sometime later. It is a composition that many artists have covered, including Dianne Reeves who recorded an interesting vocal version in 1996, and pianist Robert Gasper whose fabulous interpretation is on his 2007 Blue Note album, In My Element.

Side 2 opens with the album’s most experimental piece, ‘Survival of the Fittest’ that perfectly reflects the album’s concept – an evocation of ‘oceanic atmospheres’. ‘Dolphin Dance’ is the other genuine classic on this record, deservedly so given Hancock’s skilful writing and equally skilful playing throughout. It’s a tune that offers subtle shifts and changes in both key and the interplay between the soloists. Maiden Voyage is as perfect as an album gets.

Released on 17 May 1965 it has gone on to become one of Blue Note’s most loved releases and it is an album that no self respecting jazz collection should be without.

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Maiden Voyage_edited-1On 11 March 1965 Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and Stu Martin (drums) along with Herbie Hancock were at Rudy Van Gelder’d Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey with producer Alfred Lion to record the pianist’s new Blue Note album. The first song they put down was ‘Maiden Voyage, followed by ‘Little One’ and ‘Dolphin’s Dance’, but in the final analysis these tracks were rejected as unsuitable.

Six days later on 17 March Hancock was back in the same studio and this time he cut not just a defining album in his career, but a defining album for Blue Note Records and jazz. Whereas there was something missing at that first day’s recording nothing was missing, not a note, not a nuance, there was simply perfection. For their second attempt at recording Herbie’s five compositions it was Tony Williams rather than Stu Martin (Sonny Rollins’s drummer at the time) that was behind the drum kit.

Maiden Voyage is Hancock’s follow-up to Empyrean Isles, and is an album that is totally different in form and feel, aside from the obvious addition of tenor saxophonist George Coleman who, like most of the others, had been playing in Miles Davis’s band for the previous two years. Departing from the hard bop of Hancock’s 1964 album Maiden Voyage is more mellow, with gentle composition that have more of a chamber-jazz vibe – it has even has been called a sound sculpture. But do not for a minute think this makes it in any way less exciting; this is innovative musical exploration of the highest order. Hancock’s time with Miles Davis comes across in his playing, but in no way is this simply a pastiche of Miles’s music. Just listen to the closing crescendo on ‘Survival of the Fittest’: it owes more to Rachmaninoff than Miles Davis.

The album’s title track was originally titled ‘TV jingle’ until Jean Hancock, Herbie’s sister, renamed it, and it sets the tone and the theme for the album. Ironically, many years later, the track was used in a TV commercial by Fabergé sometime later. It is a composition that many artists have covered, including Dianne Reeves who recorded an interesting vocal version in 1996, and pianist Robert Gasper whose fabulous interpretation is on his 2007 Blue Note album, In My Element.

While side 2 opens with the album’s most experimental piece, ‘Survival of the Fittest’ that perfectly reflects the album’s concept – an evocation of ‘oceanic atmospheres’. ‘Dolphin Dance’ is the other classic, deservedly so given Hancock’s skilful writing and equally skilful playing throughout. It’s a tune that offers subtle shifts and changes in both key and the interplay between the soloists. Maiden Voyage is as perfect as an album gets.

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Somethin' else

Of course he had a little help from Miles Davis.

“Here’s one of the outstanding jazz sets released in the past few months and perhaps one of the best of the year. It features some truly fine, sensitive trumpet work by Miles Davis, and at times, some of the best work yet waxed by Cannonball Adderley. Both ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Love for Sale’ are handed superb treatments by Davis, and Adderley shines with his solo on ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ An album that will be important to all jazz fans.” Billboard 20 October 1958 

Almost four years to the day since he last recorded for Blue Note, Miles Davis was back in the studio to cut another album for the label, but not as a leader. The band was led by twenty-nine-year-old Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley – and what a band it is. Adderley was a member of Davis’s Sextet at the time of this recording, and the following year the saxophonist appeared on the seminal Kind of Blue. The feel of this album is something akin to a dry-run for what followed, and everyone with a love of jazz should own it.

The principal difference between this album and Kind of Blue is that Somethin’ Else has three tracks that are re-workings of standards – apparently chosen by Davis – which enhances the feeling of extreme comfort that each and every track exudes. Of the two original numbers, Miles composed the title track while ‘One For Daddy-O’ was a joint creation by pianist Jones and Adderley’s cornet-playing brother, Nat.

Throughout much of the album, Adderley and Davis seem to be engaged in their own private conversation, a conversation we are privileged to eavesdrop on. The stand-out track for most listeners is ‘Autumn Leaves’ and what’s so gratifying about this number and ‘Love For Sale’, is that neither song sounds like a straight rehash. It has been said that there is not ‘a rote moment’ on the album and both tracks prove the point. If you want to know what makes Adderley such a master, just listen to ‘Dancing In The Dark’; all it needs are strings and you’d swear it was Charlie Parker.

“For those not familiar with the latest in terminology, that the title number of the Miles Davis original, which also provided the name for this album, is a phrase of praise. And if I may add my personal evaluation, I should like to emphasize that Cannonball and Miles and the whole rhythm section and, indeed, the entire album certainly can be described emphatically as ‘somethin’ else’.” – Leonard Feather, original album liner notes

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Ruud March 9th at 3:04pm

One of the best!

hero-2-EN
Don Was, the President of Blue Note is clear and unequivocal in his feelings on how music should be heard, ““Music is meant to convey an emotional message to the listener. You don’t want anything interfering with that message. Fidelity is true. Give me the truth.”

There is no better way to celebrate the fidelity of the iconic label’s great catalogue than by playing them through the new and exclusive Sonos Blue Note speakers. Launched today, Sonos are introducing their first ever limited edition speaker that celebrates more than 75 years of the finest in jazz with a custom design and access to exclusive playlists. The Sonos PLAY:1 Blue Note Limited Edition is available for purchase at Sonos.com and will enable the great sound of Blue Note to fill your home.

Crafted with a custom color developed through hand-painting techniques and strategic use of robots, the speaker’s finish features a vertical fade from dark navy to cerulean blue, reflecting the deep bass to the richly detailed highs and lows that people know and love about the PLAY:1. With two custom-designed drivers and dedicated amps, the Blue Note PLAY:1 delivers sound with such precision, you will feel the nuances that define jazz. And with such simple set-up you’ll be streaming your music in no time.

Available exclusively on the Blue Note PLAY:1, listen vinyl-style to handpicked selections from the greats like Robert Glasper, Jose James, Terence Blanchard, Ambrose Akinmusire, Lionel Loueke, and Don Was himself, who has curated 125 of his personal favourites.
Born in Blue: We bring together legendary Blue Note artists and those who have sampled them for mixes that celebrate the intersection of modern music and legendary jazz.
Blue Note 101: Starting with the inception of Blue Note and following its progression to becoming an iconic label, listen and learn about jazz and its evolution over more than 75 years.

The Blue Note PLAY:1 will be sold exclusively on Sonos.com for $250, $280 CAD, €250, and £220, while quantities last. Sonos have only made about 4,100 and expect them to sell quickly. You can order them at Sonos.com

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image006
Fresh from his second Grammy win, Robert Glasper has announced the release of his new album in June. It’s ten years since his Blue Note debut, and Robert is making a return to his acclaimed acoustic jazz trio for Covered (The Robert Glasper Trio recorded live at Capitol Studios), which will be released June 16 on Blue Note Records. It features Vicente Archer on bass and Damion Reid on drums, and tonight, 26 February the trio begins a week-long run at the famed Village Vanguard in New York City to preview the album.

Glasper, Archer and Reid—who form the original trio featured on Glasper’s first two Blue Note albums: Canvas (2005) and In My Element (2007) reconvened at the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood, California in December to record Covered in front of an intimate live audience. The material mainly consisted of covers, drawing from some of Glasper’s favorite songs by Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Jhené Aiko, John Legend, Kendrick Lamar, and more, as well as several Glasper originals.

Glasper has also been named an official Steinway Artist, joining a select group of world-class pianists who have chosen to perform exclusively on The Family of Steinway-Designed pianos. As a Steinway Artist, Glasper joins a roster of some of the most dynamic names in piano, including Billy Joel, Lang Lang, Diana Krall, Jason Moran, and Harry Connick, Jr. Additionally, Glasper has been hard at work composing the original music for the Miles Davis film Miles Ahead, which is currently in production. The film is directed by and stars Don Cheadle.

The track listing for Covered (The Robert Glasper Trio recorded live at Capitol Studios)

1. Introduction

2. I Don’t Even Care (Robert Glasper/Macy Gray/Jean Grae)

3. Reckoner (Radiohead)

4. Barangrill (Joni Mitchell)

5. In Case You Forgot (Robert Glasper)

6. So Beautiful (Musiq Soulchild)

7. The Worst (Jhené Aiko)

8. Good Morning (John Legend)

9. Stella By Starlight (Victor Young)

10. Levels (Bilal)

11. Got Over feat. Harry Belafonte (Robert Glasper/Harry Belafonte)

12. I’m Dying of Thirst (Kendrick Lamar)

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635585624873941548-BlueNoteBlue Note has announced a partnership with Cunard for October, when the label’s artists and its Grammy-winning president Don Was will undertake a ‘Transatlantic Crossing’ on board Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2.

The voyage, from New York to Southampton, will feature a supergroup formed from some of the label’s finest young talent, the Blue Note Records 75th Anniversary All Star Band. Created for the anniversary last year, the band features keyboard player Robert Glasper, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Kendrick Scott. Glasper is himself a Grammy winner, for Best R&B Album for 2012’s ‘Black Radio,’ and is nominated in the same category at tomorrow’s (Sunday) 2015 ceremony.

The artists will play material from their own Blue Note catalogues in intimate performances during the voyage, as well as interpretations of landmarks in the label’s venerable history. Was will travel with his artists and take place in Q&A sessions with fellow travellers. “Cunard and Blue Note Records have accumulated 200 years of excellence and integrity in their respective fields,” says Was. “We’re going to have a ball.” There’s more information about transatlantic cruises on the Queen Mary 2 at the Cunard website.

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Charles-Lloyd
Storied saxophone player and composer Charles Lloyd has signed a new deal with Blue Note Records, and will have his first album for the label in more than 30 years released in April.

The tenor sax man, flute player and arranger, now 76, worked in his early days in Los Angeles with the likes of Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Bobby Hutcherson and ‘Cannonball’ Adderley. He’s been releasing albums as a bandleader since 1964, when ‘Discovery!’ came out on Columbia. Lloyd’s live record with his quartet ‘A Night In Copenhagen’ (featuring noted pianist Michel Petrucciani) appeared on Blue Note in 1983, with guest vocalist Bobby McFerrin.

The new Blue Note album, ‘Wild Man Dance,’ will be out on April 14. It’s a live recording of a longform suite that was commissioned by the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw in Poland. In the week of release, on April 18, Lloyd will present the North American premiere of the ‘Wild Man Dance Suite’ at the Metropolitan Museum Temple of Dendur in New York. That will be followed by two performances of it during a four-night run at SF Jazz in San Francisco.

It’ll be a busy spring for Lloyd, who is also due to have his career celebrated as NEA Jazz Masters status is bestowed on him, along with fellow notables Carla Bley, George Coleman and Joe Segal. This will take place during a ceremony and concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 20.

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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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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