My Blue Note Obsession


Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims – Blue Note 1530

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The title is Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims, but it should be the other way around. No knock on Jutta Hipp. She's great--a lively, fluid pianist who really could have been a big player in the 1950s bop scene if she hadn't suddenly disappeared and dropped out, forever. This is her date--a 1956 recording with a wonderful hard bop quintet. And if she weren't totally overshadowed by Zoot Sims, listeners might say, “Wow, that's the album where she really broke out." Except she really is overshadowed by Zoot Sims, who is a non-stop dynamo on every ...


The Magnificent Thad Jones – Blue Note 1527

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Man does not live by hard bop alone, even on Blue Note. Sometimes, you just got to have a ballad. When you're in the mood, this is the record for you. Thad Jones provides the horn, and he has never been better. Jones is best known as co-leader of the big band that bore his name, but this 1956 recording is his break-out moment as both a small-group leader and trumpeter. And while you may think of Jones as a hard bopper, five of this CD's seven tracks are either ballads or slow blues numbers. Add ...


Introducing the Three Sounds – Blue Note 1600

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This is the moment I've been looking forward to, and dreading. The Three Sounds. A piano trio I've heard of, but never heard. And what I'd heard about them wasn't entirely nice. I was sure I would hate them, but still I was very curious. The Three Sounds. Here's a band that was intensely popular in the late 1950s and '60s, recorded 16 Blue Note albums in 10 years... and yet they have vanished practically without a trace. Many jazz books don't even mention The Three Sounds, and those that do are not exactly complimentary. I ...


Introducing Johnny Griffin – Blue Note 1533

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In jazz and rock--heck, even in classical music--there is a sacred throne for those who play fast. Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson occupy such thrones. So do Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen. Fast is fun. Johnny Griffin played fast--very fast. The evidence is here in Griffin's very first album, Introducing Johnny Griffin. It's a 1956 date with a quartet that includes Wynton Kelly on piano, Curly Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums. For 70 years, Griffin was a jazz giant, and this album, his first as a leader, is among his very best. ...


Horace Silver: Six Pieces of Silver – Blue Note 1539

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Yep, this is the “Senor Blues" album. That's not the name, obviously, but it could be. This outstanding hard bop CD, recorded by Horace Silver's quintet in 1956, has 10 tracks, and three of them are “Senor Blues." No wonder. It's arguably the best track in the collection--a Spanish-tinged slow blues toe-tapper. Even so, three versions may be one too many. First, there's the album version. It's a 7-minute original by Silver himself. It's a groovy piece with a catchy hook, featuring nice bluesy solos by Donald Byrd on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor sax and ...


Kenny Dorham: The Complete ‘Round About Midnight at the Café Bohemia – Blue Note 1524

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I think I have a new favorite hard bop record. For many years, I considered Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers the perfect hard bop band--the Beatles of the bop set. I still do. I don't know how Blakey managed to find the very best up-and-coming jazz musicians in America, year after year, but somehow he did. And somehow the various bands he put together, no matter who was in them, produced superlative 5-star records, year after year. I have many Blakey/Jazz Messengers albums, and while they're all outstanding, I'd always felt 1954's A Night at ...


Herbie Nichols Trio – Blue Note 1519

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OK, now I'm cheating. At least it feels that way. The next CD on my quixotic Blue Note odyssey is Herbie Nichols Trio, a 1955-56 trio record by the criminally under-appreciated pianist. Great--I'm looking forward to it! I know almost nothing about Herbie Nichols, except that he was an overlooked talent who was often compared to the quirky Thelonious Monk. How can that be bad? Except... you can't really buy this CD. Not easily. And not cheaply. Go to Amazon and look it up. The first thing you see is that the album is ...

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