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My Blue Note Obsession

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Horace Silver: The United States of Mind – Revisited

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At what point did Blue Note Records jump the shark? Is there a single moment when Blue Note stopped being the world's greatest purveyor of jazz and instead became an irrelevant producer of schlock? Truth is, it was a long, slow slide. In the 1950s, Blue Note was the greatest source of hard bop. In the 1960s, it produced the best soul-jazz on earth. And then, one day in the 1970s--poof! It was all gone. Where did it ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Charles Mingus: Mingus in Wonderland – 1959

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In 1959, there were two Charles Minguses: the Mingus you knew and the Mingus you didn't. In May 1959, Mingus recorded his very best album ever: the incomparable Mingus Ah Um. And I mean incomparable in the literal sense. There is, literally, no other record quite like it. It's a big band, but not a Big Band. It's progressive but approachable. It's a tribute to the past that is also forward-looking. It is simply a tour de force. ...

MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

Art Blakey: A Night in Tunisia – 1961

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Dizzy Gillespie's “A Night in Tunisia" has been done almost to death. Wikipedia says it has been recorded at least 500 times and it is the title track to at least 30 albums. It might be the most recorded bop tune of all time. Who did it best? Take your pick. Dizzy himself recorded many hot versions. All are good and some are great. Charlie Parker and Miles Davis can claim one of the earliest and ...

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 ...


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