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My Blue Note Obsession

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Horace Silver: Serenade to a Soul Sister - 1968

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Is it possible to love an album for just one song? I think I do. Serenade to a Soul Sister is the happy marriage of jazz's funkiest pianist (Horace Silver) with its most soulful saxman (Stanley Turrentine). Throw in a fabulously underrated trumpeter with a big fat tone (Charles Tolliver) and you've got one of the best soul-jazz classics of the 1960s. Serenade features six original compositions by Silver, and every one is a gem. One, ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Booker Ervin: The In Between -- 1968

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There's a kind of music I like to think of as harder bop. It's a lot like conventional 1950s hard bop, but tougher, more muscular, more cerebral. Booker Ervin's The In Between is that kind of record. Ervin has an edgy style. It starts with a John Coltrane feel, then pushes a little further. Not into the crazy, atonal, unapproachable territory that Trane created in his later years, but into music that's more from the head than the ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Johnny Griffin: The Congregation – 1957

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Well, this is a disappointment. Johnny Griffin is widely regarded as one of the fastest sax players in jazz history. His reputation began with his very first album, Blue Note's Introducing Johnny Griffin in 1956. He solidified his rep the next year with a frantic three-sax attack on A Blowin' Session with John Coltrane and Hank Mobley. So maybe it's not a huge surprise that Griffin wanted to try something different a few months later, in ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Horace Parlan: Up and Down – 1961

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I have a new hero: Pianist Horace Parlan. Until recently, I had heard of Parlan, but never really heard him. I certainly never knew his back story. It's inspirational--and his music is pretty damn good, too. Parlan had a handicap. As a child, he lost some function in his right hand due to polio. Various bios disagree on the extent of the loss. Some say two fingers, others three. Either way, it's the kind of injury that makes ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Pete La Roca: Basra - 1965

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When drummer Pete La Roca recorded Basra in 1965, the Iraq war was decades away. Today, the name Basra evokes memories of the 2003 invasion. A recording called Basra in 2016 would probably make listeners think of Saddam Hussein. Not a good association. But in 1965? It was just an exotic-sounding, Middle Eastern name. And that's exactly what the 10-minute title track to Basra sounds like. It begins with a heavy, pulsing bass. It features a meandering, haunting ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Paul Chambers: Bass on Top – 1957

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In the world of 1950s hard bop, there is no more prominent bassist than Paul Chambers. The man was absolutely everywhere. He shows up on an astonishing number of jazz classics, including Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, John Coltrane's Giant Steps, Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners, Sonny Rollins' Tenor Madness and Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth. He was a sideman on 200 albums from the '50s and '60s. So it's natural to associate Chambers ...

Cannonball Adderley: Somethin' Else – 1958

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Is there anything new to say about a jazz classic that features one of the greatest two-horn tandems ever to lay down a blue note? How about this: You must own this record. Period. I suspect that everyone with even a passing interest in jazz owns Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz record of all time. Well, Somethin' Else is Kind of Blue one year earlier. Same two horns--Davis on trumpet, Cannonball Adderley on alto--supported by ...

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 ...


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