My Blue Note Obsession


1950s and ‘60s Blue Note – Is It All the Same?

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A few years ago, a reader from California named Charlie F. started a provocative discussion in the All About Jazz forums with the title: “I've decided not to buy any more Blue Note albums." Oh boy. He began, “Recently, I came to notice something about Blue Note albums of the 50s-60s, which was that they tended to sound pretty much the same." He acknowledged that “this is a good example of a label finding a particular formula and sticking to it" but concluded “it kinda gets old after a while." Well. You can guess ...


J.R. Monterose – Blue Note 1536

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J.R. Monterose is that rare bird at Blue Note Records--the guy who got one shot at leading a band, then practically vanished from the face of the earth. It's odd because the history of Blue Note is filled with famous guys (almost never gals) who took up residence and stayed just about forever. Think of Blue Note, and I think of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver and Lee Morgan. Big names who made hard bop and soul jazz the big thing in the 1950s and '60s. And then there's ...


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 ...

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