My Blue Note Obsession

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959

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Every now and then, I hear a musician in a band and I think, “Damn, can we get rid of the other guys and just hear this one by himself?" That was my immediate thought after listening to Davis Cup, a hard bop cooker from 1959. Walter Davis Jr. is a pianist with a slim discography. He recorded exactly one Blue Note CD as a leader--this one, his debut--and appeared mostly as a sideman on other people's records. ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Paul Chambers: Paul Chambers Quintet - 1957

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From 1955 to 1965, Paul Chambers was probably the most prolific jazz bassist in the world. He appeared on scores of albums, including some of the best and most famous of all time. So it was not a huge surprise when, in 1957, he turned out a classic of the genre. Bass on Top literally turned jazz on its head, transforming the bass into the lead melody instrument. It was a novel idea, but difficult for some fans to digest. ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

The Best of Lou Donaldson, Volume 1 – 1957-1967

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I'm not a huge fan of Best Of albums. Artists make albums of music--some with themes, some without--and you go with it. One album generally equals one mood, so why mix them up? But then... Lou Donaldson is an alto saxophonist who spent virtually his entire career at one label: Blue Note. Bigger names have recorded on Blue Note--Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins--but none so extensively, from the 1950s to '70s. Trouble is, ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder – 1964

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What's left to say about Lee Morgan's most popular album, The Sidewinder? How about this: It is one FUN record. That's capital F, capital U, capital N. Anything wrong with that? Sometimes it feels like all the fun has gone out of jazz. As if nothing can be Good unless it is Serious. As if muted Miles and spiritual Trane are the ultimate barometers of true jazz respectability. Hey, I love Miles and Trane and all ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Sabu Martinez: Palo Congo – 1957

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1957 was a banner year for hard bop and Blue Note. In one year, the label released 40 albums, including classics from John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Bud Powell, Lou Donaldson, Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin and eight by Jimmy Smith alone. In the midst of all that hard bop, Blue Note released two percussion-based albums that were way off the beaten path. Art Blakey's Orgy in Rhythm was a drum-fest of epic proportions. Sabu Martinez's Palo Congo was a ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra: Consummation – 1970

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Blue Note was never home to many big bands, but the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra recorded four albums for the label from 1967-70, and one is a certified classic. Consummation is the musical equivalent of Neapolitan ice cream--three flavors packed into one large container. The album contains three moods: soft and contemplative, sprightly and upbeat, and soulful and funky. Each gets two or three songs, and together they make a tasty treat. The record begins with ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil – 1964

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It's hard to imagine a jazz musician who has had more success with more bands than Wayne Shorter. His tenor sax was an essential part of three landmark combos: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (1959-1964), Miles Davis' classic quintet (1964-70) and Weather Report (1971-86)--27 consecutive years of uninterrupted magnificence. In other words, if Shorter had never recorded a single album as a bandleader, he still would be among the greats on jazz's Mount Olympus. But ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Javon Jackson: Pleasant Valley – 1999

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If the iconic sound of Blue Note Records could be summed up in just one band, it would surely be Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. For 35 years--1955 to 1990--the Messengers were the heart and soul of hard bop, on Blue Note and other labels. But what happened when Blakey died in 1990? Where did the music and the musicians go after that? For decades, Blakey trained a Who's Who of young jazz royalty. Many became legends. ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Leo Parker: Rollin' With Leo – 1961

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What if I told you there's a saxman who was there at the birth of bebop--literally, he played on the very first bebop recording--and you've never heard of him? And what if I told you his life story is the very archetype of the tragic, drug-addicted jazz musician? Would you still want to hear his music? Listen anyway. Rollin' With Leo by baritone saxman Leo Parker is an obscure pleasure. Lately, I've been listening to it ...


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