Blue Note Records has been many things over the course of its 75 years: a label responsible for blinding jazz innovations, a home for the titans of hard bop and soul jazz, a place for smart, sly, jazz-inflected pop creations.
One constant running throughout its history is improvisation. Its records have showcased jazz soloing in every possible mood and temperament. Its artists, both the jazz legends and those journeymen who are little regarded today, have helped shape the ever-evolving notion of what a solo is and what it can be.
Blue Note Records is the kind of record label that people like to call "storied" — so celebrated and impactful that no one narrative can capture its essence. From swing to bebop and hard bop, through fusion and the avant-garde, Blue Note has been telling the story of jazz in the grooves of its records since 1939 — and for its 75th anniversary, it's releasing remastered vinyl editions of some gems from its catalog. But the real legacy of the label is too big to capture on disc.
During the 1960s, Wayne Shorter came to the fore not just for his talent on saxophone, but also for the compositions he created. Whether with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers or with Miles Davis' quintet, or on his own string of solo albums, Shorter's harmonic conception, sense of space and bending of music-theory rules destined many of his tunes to become jazz standards.
In a stretch of Blue Note albums throughout the 1950s, '60s and even early '70s, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, now 87, emblematized the hard bop and soul jazz that we now consider "straight-ahead." The old dog has resisted certain new tricks in music — "no fusion, no confusion" is his motto — but he's certainly expanded his palette of dirty jokes to include, well, modern medicine. At the Blue Note at 75 concert, Donaldson warmed up the crowd and gave it some of his classic greasy polish. Sweet Poppa Lou was accompanied by organist Dr.
Pianist McCoy Tyner and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson first connected on record in 1966, on Hutcherson's album Stick-Up! They must have realized they were musically simpatico — they've continued to work together for nearly five decades now. At the Blue Note at 75 concert, they didn't say a word, but locked into a miniature set of Tyner's classic compositions with ageless grace.
Jon Faddis is one of today's premier trumpet players and an accomplished teacher, composer, conductor and recording artist. Faddis consistently exemplifies an unparalleled range and dazzling technique, with a style that evokes Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Roy Eldridge.
New Orleans may be the nominal birthplace of jazz, though it's also where a jazz tradition associated with death began: The jazz funeral, in which mourners taking a casket to the cemetery are accompanied by a band playing spirituals, hymns and dirges.
Jazz composer and trumpeter Theo Croker opens his new album, AfroPhysicist, with an ode to his grandfather: New Orleans jazz great Doc Cheatham. The thing is, Croker didn't grow up in New Orleans or any other jazz hub. He's from Jacksonville, Fla., and he was just a child when his grandfather died in 1997. It wasn't until his grandfather's memorial services — attended by jazz legends — that he decided to join the legacy.