Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

13

Rebellion and Respect: Kennedy Center Celebrates Blue Note's 75th Anniversary

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
Jazz has always been socially conscious music, these [players] were renegades. —Terence Blanchard
Blue Note Record's significance to modern music is as inarguable as its story is remarkable. Over its 75 year lifespan the label has recorded many of jazz's defining artists, its evolution tracing the trajectory of America's most significant musical form from its beginnings to its present day diverse manifestations.

It is therefore especially auspicious that the celebration of its 75th anniversary took place at the Kennedy Center just as the center welcomes experimentalist Jason Moran as its now long-term artistic director, fulfilling a commitment to the musical form begun by the groundbreaking Billy Taylor when he established a jazz program at the Center over two decades ago.

When the Kennedy Center initiated its jazz program few major arts centers had so thoroughly embraced jazz. The importance of this infiltration into the country's dedicated forum for performance art cannot be overstated. Jazz was now being regaled in the same halls as more traditionally lauded forms like Opera, classical, and dance. Yet, under Taylor's guidance, jazz was always presented as a living, breathing art form grounded equally in the concert hall as the club. In fact, the Kennedy Center took the innovative step of erecting a jazz club smack in the middle of the Center. The KC Club quickly established itself as a premier venue for cutting edge performance in a comfortable, relaxed setting. Under Moran's guidance, the Kennedy Center continues to balance casting a spotlight on jazz's history, educational outreach, and more than ever, avant-garde experimentation.

These three themes were evident during the entirety of the Blue Note celebration which emphasized the label's historical contributions while putting its current artists front and center. Over the course of the week a huge cast of performers spanning multiple jazz styles occupied every corner of the Kennedy Center, including its main stages, the free daily Millennium Stage, exhibit spaces, and the recently established Crossroads Club.

On tap were Fabian Almazan, Brian Blade, Terence Blanchard, Lou Donaldson, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Bobby Hutcherson, Norah Jones, Lionel Loueke, Joe Lovano, John Patitucci, Danilo Pérez 99, Dianne Reeves, Kendrick Scott, Marlena Shaw, Wayne Shorter, Dr. Lonnie Smith, McCoy Tyner, and others. Many of these artists performed multiple times in differing configurations, showcasing jazz's trio, quartet, and larger ensemble formations, as well as its current stylistic diversity.

Audiences heard straight ahead jazz, modernist masters like the Wayne Shorter Quartet, and genre-colliding experiments from Derek Hodges and the Robert Glasper Experiment. An example of the Kennedy Center's evolving programming, Glasper performed in the Crossroads Club. Built inside the Center, the dance club—replete with dance floor and multiple bars—provides a platform for modern, multi-genre music and mirroring Taylor's KC Club innovation breaks the mold by placing jazz's more electric players in their natural context. A perfect set piece for Glasper's genre busting music, the silvery drapes and custom white sofas echoed the bands disco inflections, robotic vocals, and art-soul contours.

The celebration's musical series culminated in an extended concert that delivered an aural portrait of Blue Note jazz via multiple performances from some of jazz's most prominent artists. Live streamed by NPR, the music unfolded against a backdrop of Blue Note album covers presented in chronological order, with Moran and Blue Note president Don Was presiding. For the opening piece, Moran and Glasper performed a stellar piano duet of "Boogie Woogie Stomp," the first Blue Note recording. Their take heralded the ensuing night of music which deftly melded historical perspective with contemporary style as it marched from one memorable tune to another. Lou Donaldson and Dr. Lonnie Smith delved into the blues with "Blues Walk," "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman," and "Alligator Boogaloo." Smith's distinct organ sound, the band's low and slow swing, and Donaldon's humorous repartee crafted an inviting picture of sixties jazz's straight ahead roots. Joe Lovano regaled the audience with a combination of "Fort Worth/ I'm All for You," while National Endowment of the Arts Masters Bobby Hutcherson and McCoy Tyner performed a commanding series of selections ending with the dynamic "African Village." Dianne Reeves assumed the stage for renditions of "Dreams" and a dramatic Terence Blanchard arrangement of "Stormy Weather." Blanchard then led a standout performance of his textured "Wandering Wonder."

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

In Pictures
Live Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
  • Ten by AAJ Italy Staff
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
  • Ten by David Adler
Live Reviews
Profiles
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller

All Rise: A Joyful...

Blue Note Records
2014

buy
 

Ten

Manila Jazz Festival
2011

buy
Jason Moran: Ten

Jason Moran: Ten

Blue Note Records
2010

buy
Ten

Ten

Blue Note Records
2010

buy
Artist In Residence

Artist In Residence

Blue Note Records
2006

buy
Same Mother

Same Mother

Blue Note Records
2005

buy

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Mar30Sat
Two Wings: The Music Of Black America In Migration
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall
New York, NY
$26
Apr7Sun
Bangs Featuring Jason Moran, Mary Halvorson & Ron...
Sanders Theatre
Cambridge, MA
$58, 48, 37, 30

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Live Reviews
Darrell Grant Black Art @ 25 Quartet at Birdland Theater
By Mike Jurkovic
January 18, 2019
Live Reviews
Odean Pope Quartet at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
By Victor L. Schermer
January 15, 2019
Live Reviews
Denise Donatelli at Mezzrow
By Nicholas F. Mondello
January 10, 2019
Live Reviews
The Los Cabos Jazz Experience 2018
By Wendy Ross
January 5, 2019
Live Reviews
Rene Marie With Experiment In Truth At The Jazz Corner
By Martin McFie
January 3, 2019