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Blue Note 7: Mosaic: a Celebration of Blue Note Records (2009)

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Blue Note 7: Mosaic: a Celebration of Blue Note Records How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Blue Note's 70th anniversary deserves more than a cake, a toast, and a chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." To that end, The Blue Note 7's Mosaic: a Celebration of Blue Note Records is a collection of music from some of the imprint's greatest masters, as interpreted by a group of Blue Note's current leading lights. The $64,000 Question is: Why is Mosaic merely good, when it should be great?

A front line of Nicholas Payton

Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
b.1973
trumpet
, Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane
b.1965
sax, tenor
and Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
b.1961
sax, alto
would headline some jazz festivals; add Bill Charlap
Bill Charlap
Bill Charlap
b.1966
piano
and Peter Bernstein
Peter Bernstein
Peter Bernstein
b.1967
guitar
into the mix, and the possibilities seem endless. Musical director Charlap is supported by Peter Washington and Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
b.1958
drums
, and almost every track is arranged by a band member. Mosaic should be one of 2009's first great recordings. So why isn't it better than it should be?

Things certainly get off to a flying start with Nash's flag-waving take on the Cedar Walton

Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
1934 - 2013
piano
-penned title track. The Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
classic opens with the front line in full cry, and then alternates between quicksilver swing and an alluring waltz as each member gets an introductory solo. Payton lets it all hang out, as he does through most of Mosaic; his full, rich sound serving as well on his aggressive arrangement of Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
's "Inner Urge" as it does on Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
's colorful "Dolphin Dance." In the end though, "Mosaic" is merely an interesting table-setter—not the lip-smacking appetizer it should have been.

Charlap's musical history betrays him when he steps out on the edge for "Mosaic" and for Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
's "Criss Cross." The renowned interpreter's body of work is so unerringly smooth that he sounds unconvincing on both pieces. Also, while his arrangement of Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
's "The Outlaw" is textbook-perfect, his solos lack Silver's inimitable snap. Ironically, Charlap comes off best on "Dolphin Dance" and McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
's "Search for Peace"—tunes arranged by SFJazz Collective pianist Renee Rosnes
Renee Rosnes
Renee Rosnes
b.1962
piano
. The Collective, which once counted Payton as a member, put Monk in their spotlight in 2007, and SFJazz's take on "Criss Cross" knocks the Mosaic version out of the park.

In any case, Charlap sounds right at home on "Dolphin" and "Search," and Coltrane has big fun on those tunes as well. As much as Wilson's alto holds serve against Payton's trumpet and Ravi's tenor, Wilson's best work happens on flute during his luminous examination of Bobby Hutcherson

Bobby Hutcherson
Bobby Hutcherson
b.1941
vibraphone
's "Little B's Poem." For his part, Bernstein gives Mosaic its best cut with "Idle Moments," a Duke Pearson
Duke Pearson
Duke Pearson
b.1932
piano
tune written for Grant Green
Grant Green
Grant Green
1935 - 1979
guitar
. Bernstein takes his hollow-body guitar to a higher level with each chorus, and the front line's background textures are both warm and bright.

Sadly, great individual performances do not make a great final product. Mosaic has worthy intentions, but ultimately it falls short as a tribute to jazz's Alpha label. Moreover, it perpetuates the fallacy that venerating jazz's past is more important than supporting jazz's present—or building its future, which Blue Note will hopefully help to shape.

Track Listing: Mosaic; Inner Urge; Search for Peace; Little B's Poem; Criss Cross; Dolphin Dance; Idle Moments; The Outlaw.

Personnel: Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Steve Wilson: alto sax, flute (4), Ravi Coltrane: tenor sax; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Bill Charlap: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.

Record Label: Blue Note Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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