Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Blue Note 7: Mosaic — A Celebration of Blue Note Records

Blue Note Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 2.5.09
Buy CD: Mosaic

In January, Blue Note Records observed its 70th year of existence.

In recognition of that milestone, the label released this album and initiating a 51-city North American tour of the septet that recorded it. When Alfred Lion founded the label in 1939, he intended to “create a forum for composers to write music,” and he trusted them to “go ahead and do what they did best.”

The songs included were selected from the vast catalogue of music recorded during the company's 70 year span, and are favorites of those directing this enterprise. All are covers of tunes previously done by other artists in the Blue Note stable; all but two — McCoy Tyner's “Search for Peace” and Herbie Hancock's “Dolphin Dance” — were rearranged by members of this septet.

This group of artists, described as “the next generation of major players, arrangers and composers,” features pianist and leader Bill Charlap, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, alto saxophonist/flutist Steve Wilson, guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. Each is excellent, as is the group as a whole.

The library featured is mellow, and the meters selected generally are mid-tempo; everything is smooth and thoughtful, with no frenetic instrumental “screaming.” The tunes will be familiar to all jazz fans: Cedar Walton's “Mosaic” (written for Art Blakey's group), Joe Henderson's “Inner Urge,” Bobby Hutcherson's “Little B's Poem,” Thelonious Monk's “Chris Cross,” Duke Pearson's “Idle Moments,” Horace Silver's “The Outlaw” and the two mentioned above.

The tour performances — which began in Washington, stopped here at UC Davis on Jan. 13, and will continue across the country before concluding with a six-night run in mid-April, at New York's Birdland — will include additional songs, also from the extensive Blue Note library.

This is an epic endeavor, and the album is well worth your time. If you missed the Blue Note 7 when they hit town a few weeks ago, here's a chance to experience at least a part of their magic.

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