The Jazzcat

The 70th Anniversary of Blue Note Records at Royce Hall!

by on Mar.11, 2009, under News

House lights are low and the stage lights brighten up to a large, confident all-star ensemble simultaneously making their way across the stage to their instruments. It was a walk of power and in a moment, the music will be our center. This power does not suggest that the musicians dominated our presence; they only gave us the assurance that they know what the history of Blue Note music holds and they were ready to interpret that legacy.

Blue Note Records as most people know has a sound and style that in one bar, you could distinguish the mastery and identify the colors that you hear and associate them with a circle of cerulean. “Six Pieces of Silver” is a classic tune but tonight there are seven; Bill Charlap on piano, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Ravi Coltrane on tenor, Steve Wilson on alto, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Peter Washington on Bass and Lewis Nash on drums. All fine tuned, in tuned musicians who are sensitive to the dynamics in sound, composers, leaders and cognitive not only to the music that they are hear to honor but also to organic spirit of the medium through which the resolve will be attained.

Almost as soon as their bottom hits the top, a beautiful vibe is created. The Blue note sound is the foundation, the dream of a couple of Europeans with the tenacity and passion to capture the sound of the day and create vinyl that turns into gold! Seventy years later, this league of extraordinary gentleman dissect and resurrect the fire that still blows and burns in the new generation.

Bill Charlap is so creative as he languishes the love of song and style on the piano. The music is clean and moves with the pulse and tempo of 6/4 splendor. You usually have an opportunity to see most of these cats in the East and so it is a treasure to see them come together for this series of performances. They are traveling all across the country and tonight represents the first leg of what I am sure will be a string of wonderful musical encounters.

The melody is super strong under the pure and precious notes of Nicholas Payton. Peter Washington is so solid. He is one of those stellar bassists that add precision and lyricism to the bottom and the blossom of rolling seamless thunder is so fragrant. They start out with Wayne Shorter’s, “United” followed by Herbie Hancock’s, “Dolphin Dance”. That is one great thing about the gig, the cats can be blind folded and pick a tune from the archives and come up with roses every time!

Watch out when brotha Nash gets in a rhythm. He locks in the time and proceeds to add class with a splash to make sure that the music is tight, ticking and on straight ahead time. Steve Wilson on alto and Ravi Coltrane on tenor fill in the bars with sound that lives on the corner where Blue Note tradition meets the youth intellectual of the 21st century!  You would think that listening to all of these classics would take you back to when you first heard them, they don’t. As you proceed to go back in your mind you are stopped halfway to discover a new found loveliness that let’s you experience the music in an entirely different light. Renee Rosnes has done a fabulous job arranging many of these classics to make the “Dolphin’s Dance” and “Unite” in a whole new way.

Steve Wilson spoke about the great Horace Silver being the most important composer and he is right. Horace was instrumental for putting the funky blues in Blue Note; so many stellar compositions that have indelibly attached their melodies into the rhythm of our lives. Not to be funny but the Blue Note Seven do Horaces’s “The Outlaw” some serious justice! There is no doubt that an all-star band can really work this music.

Each cat takes the mic and just as a collective does, each give an introduction to the artist whose composition they are about to perform, tells you a little history and which one of the cats arranged the music. Ravi comes on stage and gives a shout out to Westside and as he mentions a few of the neighborhoods in this town, the applause dies down by the time he get to Agoura where the Trane posse rolls. No matter though, he is always amongst family here in the city and in the music! Peter Bernstein, a monster of melody on guitar, arranges this Lee Morgan composition in sweet Blue Note four. Interestingly arranged so that each instrument plays a dominant lead role in the piece. Not to take away from the cool style of Lee on the trumpet but the music is built in a way which broadens the horizons of the master piece. Three-part brass harmony that sails across the audience with breathe taking splendor.

Chalap swings the notes blue as he brilliantly brushes the colors of feeling across the keys. You can feel the hipness of Lee as Nicholas emphasizes the fact that it is indeed “Party Time”. Peter’s conversation is a story all in itself. The essence of radiant coolness speaks from his strings!

Louis Nash, head of the PIA (Percussion Intelligence Association), speaks on the implications of Master Higgins and the one and only LTD himself, Dexter Gordon as the band gets heads bobbin’ and feet movin’ on “Soy Califa”. The seven open it up wide with an even bigger sound!  Although there is not an opportunity to finesse the embodiment of such rhythms on a dance floor at the moment, it is still fun making the motions and moving around in the confines of our seats and pretending.

Charlap says, “He Transports”, whenever he hears Bobby Hutcherson, duly noted. Wife Renee arranged one of Bobby’s most beautiful tunes, “Bouquet” and yes the feeling is just as fragrant! No vibes in this vibe but the love, humor, respect and integrity of the composition sparkle like sheen on the ripples of water. They could not have picked a more extraordinary, powerful and peaceful piece of music.

Nicholas is up next and before we get into the last tune of the evening, he takes time to acknowledge the passing of David “Fathead” Newman, another sad loss in our ever-shrinking genius pool of vast improvisational creativity. That being said, they close with Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” followed by “Mosaic” from the great Art Blakey; two classic sound pieces that are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring the Blue Note Catalog. With such a vast array of stellar classics, the 70th Anniversary of Blue Note Records has been and will continue to be the shining star of jazz at its best from an era of mastery that will never be forgotten!

LeRoy Downs

1 Comment for this entry

Leave a Reply

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...