My Blue Note Obsession

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Dr. Lonnie Smith: Then and Now – Think! (1968) vs Evolution (2016)

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The “doctor" with the mysterious turban and manic Hammond B-3 fingers is back. And if you think the old man at 73 can't possibly match the passion and pyrotechnics of the young man at 26... well, surprise! Evolution is Dr. Lonnie Smith's triumphant return to Blue Note. I feared it might be like a Beatles “reunion" of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr--a sentimental experiment that's bound to disappoint. I bought Evolution and resigned myself to liking Smith's younger ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Reuben Wilson: Blue Mode – 1969

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1969 was the grooviest year in a very groovy decade. The Beatles, on the verge of a breakup, urged everyone to get back and come together. The Temptations couldn't get next to you. And Sly Stone took everyone higher at Woodstock. At that very moment, in the waning days of 1969, Reuben Wilson funked us up with a classic acid-jazz album called Blue Mode. If you remember 1969, you already know what Blue Mode sounds like, ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Freddie Redd: Music from The Connection – 1960

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What sweet music from what sounds like a perfectly harrowing stage play! Freddie Redd is one of those long-forgotten names in Blue Note history. He was a pianist in the bebop tradition of Bud Powell, with a tinge of Thelonious Monk. He recorded exactly two albums as a Blue Note leader, a few more as a session man, then disappeared for a number of years. And yet, based on the evidence of Music from The Connection, ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Hank Mobley: Soul Station - 1960

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Hank Mobley is a mystery to me. On the one hand, I mostly love his relaxed style of bop. Sometimes it's round and smooth, sometimes rock hard, sometimes full of soul and funk. What's not to like? On the other hand, the same relaxed style can sometimes seem lazy. Critics sure thought so. At his peak in the 1950s and '60s, Mobley was pretty widely ignored by critics. His playing seemed effortless and lacking innovation. At ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Not Feelin’ All Right: Guilt and Those Cheap Imported Box Sets

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When I was in high school in the '70s, I bought a jazz record with an unusual request in the liner notes. The artist--I think it was Chick Corea--asked fans not to tape his record and pass it around to friends. He said (and I'm paraphrasing from memory): “If you like jazz and you like this record, please don't copy it. Buy another copy. The jazz market is small, he said, and most jazz musicians don't make much ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Earl Hines, Pete Johnson and James P. Johnson: Reminiscing at Blue Note – 1939-43

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In the beginning, there was the piano--if not in jazz generally, then definitely at Blue Note Records. From the start, Blue Note founder Alfred Lion was obsessed with the piano. Blue Note's very first recordings, in 1939, were 19 tunes by boogie-woogie pianists Meade “Lux" Lewis and Albert Ammons. You can hear them all on one fabulous CD called The First Day. Later that same year, Lion recorded more piano favorites by all-time greats Earl “Fatha" ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Big John Patton: Along Came John - 1963

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If you like Booker T and MG's, you'll love Big John Patton's Along Came John. It is, without a doubt, the funkiest, bluesiest, most soulful organ jazz record of all time, bar none. And that includes everything ever done by the legendary Jimmy Smith. Along Came John is a great party record, and once you hear it, you'll be moving your feet and feeling the groove. This is blues, pure and simple--and I do mean simple. ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Dizzy Reece: Star Bright – 1959

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In the 1950s and '60s, there were two jazz trumpeters named Dizzy. One was famous. This is the other guy. Dizzy Reece is a pretty obscure name, even among Blue Note fans. He was a young hard bop trumpeter from Jamaica who spent most of the 1950s playing in Europe, recorded four very good records as a leader from 1958 to 1962, mostly in America, then vanished for 20 years. Fortunately, some of Reece's best work ...


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