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Matthew Ruddick

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Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Friday, 25 January 2019 21:03

Blue Note All Stars - Our Point of View

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The Blue Note All Stars celebrate 75 years Blue Note. These comets have returned to light up our Jazz Nebula with such intensity.

Halley's Comet comes once every 75 years - You do not have to wait that long to see a Blue Note comet thanks in part to Don Was, President of Blue Note.

Our Point of View showcases The Blue Note All Stars of today, celebrating 75 Years of Blue Note. The guests are some of the biggest planets in the galaxy, bringing with them their signature gravitas.

I was pleased to learn that the album was in production and I can say with the excitement of a child's first Christmas, It is the 'coup de maître' for jazz.

Many of the tracks are already known to jazz musos. However, they have been re-visited from 'their points of view'.

Jazz musicians, for a long period, were once considered the outliers of music. Nobody wanted to listen to them. Nobody wanted to play with them. Now everybody wants to be them. These are the Blue Note All Stars.

Passion flows through every breath blown, drums struck, string plucked and keys touched. The wall of sound is overwhelming. Once you marry the 'Ortofon Concorde' stylus with the Blue Note vinyl or press play in the media player, it is a joyous experience. Once heard. Never forgotten. It is food for the soul.

Is 80 minutes of joy enough? Too much? or, just right? Our Point of View left me feeling deprived of all the good things these amazing artists stand for.  Again, I understand these highly acclaimed maestros are also the pilots of their own spacecrafts. They have their own crews to captain through the jazz nebula.

This is a compelling album. It is quintessential listening. It is a must have.

Some of the tracks I have chosen for this article:

In honour of Blue Note President, Bruce Lundvall (1935 - 2015) two elegies were composed for this album. Bruce's Vibe by Robert Glasper and Bruce, The Last Dinosaur by Ambrose Akinmusire. The first track opens with a recording of Bruce Lundvall over the backdrop of Glasper’s soft piano keys. This finishes with a rapturous applaud of the crowd whist the latter track is that of a mournful soliloquy.

If there was a Mafiosi of drummers, Kendrick Scott could well be considered as the Don. Cycling Through Reality also written by Scott delivers a tempo that ramps up very quickly in this jazz funk fused composition. Marcus Strickland and Akinmusire ensue in a short battle of the brass. And what a battle it is! At 135 bpm you need to hold on. It's a fast ride.

Meanings written by Strickland, again is the epitome of jazz funk. Glasper demonstrate how the Rhodes should be played, full of noodles and open chords whilst the subtle bass line from Derrick Hodge adds depth.

Wayne Shorter revives Witch Hunt, taken from his 1966 album Speak No Evil. The original is a jazz standard played in 4/4 swing tempo from the post-bop era. Fast forward 51 years and increase the drum tempo to Fast and Furious. This is an incredible composition with instruments played in different time signatures and the pièce de résistance is Lionel Loueke’s vocalisation.  Like an angel cake with many layers, this track taste good. Let’s face it, who doesn't like cake?

 Second Light written by Hodge is contemporary composition. One of a marching tempo to the infill of Glasper's keys and Loueke's vocal harmonisation.  It’s not my usual flavour, but it does add spice.

Shorter originally wrote Masquelero for the Miles Davies 1967 Modal album Sorcerer which then, as now also features Herbie Hancock. This modern track remains unchanged for the most part, although now the production is 3-dimensional. You can hear every nuance, every timbre, every phrase in detail. Still deep and mesmerising.

Freedom Dance written by Loueke, exhibits not only his incredible vocal and guitar skills, but emanates the feeling of joy. Uniting Afro-beats with jazz is a show of strength in this collaboration. This track also featured on Loueke's 2012 album Heritage as did Bayyinah.

I might just have to buy two copies. One to play. One to frame.

 

Credits:

Ambrose Akinmusire - Trumpet

Derrick Hodge - Upright , Electric bass

Kendrick Scott - Drums

Lionel Loueke - Guitar

Marcus Strickland - Tenor saxophone

Robert Glasper - Rhodes, Piano

 

Guests: 

Wayne Shorter - Soprano Saxophone

Herbie Hancock  - Piano

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