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Blue Note 70th Anniversary Celebration

Jim Santella By

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Blue Note 70th Anniversary Celebration
UCLA, Royce Hall
Westwood, California
January 22, 2009


The Blue Note sound has been at the core of modern jazz for generations and remains the vital quality that has made collectors out of all of us. Who can forget Horace Silver's "Jody Grind," Bud Powell's "Autumn in New York," Sonny Clark's "Somethin' Special," Joe Henderson's "Our Thing" and Hank Mobley's "Remember?" Did I forget your favorites? Well, that was intentional because the list of Blue Note special gems goes on and on: much to the delight of all jazz fans.

Rather than copy the past to celebrate this 70th Anniversary musical celebration, it was decided to go with modern impressions from the label. Musical arrangements by Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap gave the concert a rich quality that introduced an updated landscape while keeping familiar themes in tow. The program presented by the Blue Note 7 included songs by Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Cedar Walton and Bobby Hutcherson; however, each piece came with its own, updated aroma and flavor.

"United" started off the concert with a drum solo by Lewis Nash and an animated piano storm from Charlap that represented the forceful side of bebop. The arrangement for this one and for "Dolphin Dance" came from Rosnes, pouring excitement from every corner as tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, guitarist Peter Bernstein, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, drummer Nash and bassist Peter Washington turned it loose with extended solo work. Payton's work has developed dramatically since his entry on the jazz scene, his solos beginning low down and gentle before climbing gradually to a powerful conclusion that allows him to tell a story with each song.

"Soy Califa," "Bouquet" and "Party Time" provided plenty of room for tight ensemble work where the septet grooved as one. Horace Silver's "The Outlaw" (Further Explorations), a personal favorite, featured Payton's majestic matador soloing followed by Coltrane's response and Charlap's summary. "Bouquet," another Rosnes arrangement, was a flute feature with lush harmonic developments that provided contrast for the evening's forceful bop-driven motion.

"Inner Urge" and "Mosaic," the latter tune from the eponymously titled Art Blakey Blue Note session, closed the night's celebration with a powerful extended drum solo, leaving no doubt that Nash is one of the best keepers of the predecessor's forceful flame. This all-star unit proved in no uncertain terms that Blue Note continues to lead the way for jazz in the 21st Century.


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