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Jazz - To be released January 28, 2022 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - To be released December 10, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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In 1961, Art Blakey did his first tour of Japan with his then-current lineup of the Jazz Messengers. It was a young crew of players—Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, and Jymie Merritt were all in their early 20s, while Blakey was comparatively an elder statesman at 42—and the group only been together for a little more than a year with just two albums (The Big Beat and A Night in Tunisia) under their belt. This two-week tour could have been a straight cash grab, with Blakey and the band giving jazz-starved Japanese audiences a well-mannered and highly competent run through a collection of straight-ahead bop standards. It quickly became clear that—thanks to the enthusiastic reactions of crowds at every single tour stop—they had considerable license to let things rip. And indeed they did. The engaged energy of the crowd fed the players on stage and the result was, as documented on this previously unreleased recording from a Tokyo concert at the end of the tour, some near-electric performances. Instead of acting like ambassadors, the band here is acting more like explorers, taking the crowds' deep and informed affection for jazz as a license to walk with them into some new terrain that was truly transitioning from the bop era. This set opens with a rambling, jaunty version of Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time" that goes on for 20-plus minutes. Far from a hoary old chestnut being brought out to warm up the audience, it kicks off the show with a lengthy and intense solo from Blakey that is followed up with some expansive and exploratory interplay between Shorter and Morgan. The tone is set for the rest of the show, which runs a warm, but inquisitive vibe through a number of standards. Timmons' piano work shines so brightly on "'Round About Midnight," as one would expect, but near the last third, his keyboard work gives way to some near-cosmic playing from Morgan that totally reshapes the character of Monk's standard. There's a great balance in the set between solos and communicative group improvisation, but there's no mistake that Blakey is the leader, as he not only clocks the most spotlight time, but also provides the necessary bridge between jazz's past and future. And while he's obviously not digging into the same vibes he would in the late '60s and early '70s with albums like Roots and Herbs and The Witch Doctor, it's also clearly a few evolutionary clicks beyond the Messengers' name-making work from the late '50s. Worth noting: although the sound quality here is not quite audiophile-level (it's a little thin in places, especially—and unfortunately—on low end/percussion), for a "found" recording, the fidelity is nonetheless rich and transportive. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released December 1, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released December 1, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released November 19, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Bebop jazz remix albums are nothing new. In fact when it comes to the revered Blue Note catalog, it's been plumbed by remixers a number of times in recent years since Don Was took over as label president. As trendy an idea as it is, remixing or more accurately making new albums out of the raw materials provided by a catalog as illustrious as Blue Note's is a delicate dance. To succeed you must stay respectful of the sources while adding to their legacy and making music that, as drummer/remixer Makaya McCraven puts it, "people can vibe to." There's even an underlying educational element to these remixes. If the beat scientist generation hears a track with Lee Morgan's trumpet or Hank Mobley's tenor sax, perhaps this will pique enough curiosity to explore the original records. An edge that McCraven has over straight remixers who may only be manipulating laptops is that he can add live instrumental tracks to samples of the original recordings. With the octet he's assembled—vibraphonist Joel Ross, trumpeter Marquis Hill, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, guitarists Matt Gold and Jeff Parker, bassist Junius Paul, and De'Sean Jones on tenor saxophone and flute—McCraven can control, accentuate and reshape the core rhythms of the older recordings, guiding the remix with live drums and percussion. His method is intricate and controversial, often working best when just he and a few extra instrumentalists contribute. A track like "Wail Bait," written by Quincy Jones and originally played by an all-star group of boppers including trumpeter Clifford Brown, pianist John Lewis and drummer Art Blakey, now has Brown's horn and Blakey's drums opening before McCraven's drums enter and then Jones' flute, Ross' vibraphone and McCraven on guitar take over the tune. In Kenny Burrell's version of "Autumn in New York," here called "Spring in Chicago," his original guitar part meshes beautifully with the added flute and vibes. The massed female voices present in the original of Eddie Gale's "Black Rhythm Happening" are seamlessly joined by drummer McCraven and Jones on tenor sax and flute on a remix of the same name. While Jack Wilson's "Frank's Tune," now called "De'Jeff's Tune," 'ventures a long way from the original with added keyboards and flute, it does have one of McCraven's wisest touches—spoken introductions from original Blue Note records, in this case by Blakey. Adding fresh grooves to classic jazz has uncovered new messages in venerated vessels. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released November 19, 2021 | Blue Note Records

Bebop jazz remix albums are nothing new. In fact when it comes to the revered Blue Note catalog, it's been plumbed by remixers a number of times in recent years since Don Was took over as label president. As trendy an idea as it is, remixing or more accurately making new albums out of the raw materials provided by a catalog as illustrious as Blue Note's is a delicate dance. To succeed you must stay respectful of the sources while adding to their legacy and making music that, as drummer/remixer Makaya McCraven puts it, "people can vibe to." There's even an underlying educational element to these remixes. If the beat scientist generation hears a track with Lee Morgan's trumpet or Hank Mobley's tenor sax, perhaps this will pique enough curiosity to explore the original records. An edge that McCraven has over straight remixers who may only be manipulating laptops is that he can add live instrumental tracks to samples of the original recordings. With the octet he's assembled—vibraphonist Joel Ross, trumpeter Marquis Hill, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, guitarists Matt Gold and Jeff Parker, bassist Junius Paul, and De'Sean Jones on tenor saxophone and flute—McCraven can control, accentuate and reshape the core rhythms of the older recordings, guiding the remix with live drums and percussion. His method is intricate and controversial, often working best when just he and a few extra instrumentalists contribute. A track like "Wail Bait," written by Quincy Jones and originally played by an all-star group of boppers including trumpeter Clifford Brown, pianist John Lewis and drummer Art Blakey, now has Brown's horn and Blakey's drums opening before McCraven's drums enter and then Jones' flute, Ross' vibraphone and McCraven on guitar take over the tune. In Kenny Burrell's version of "Autumn in New York," here called "Spring in Chicago," his original guitar part meshes beautifully with the added flute and vibes. The massed female voices present in the original of Eddie Gale's "Black Rhythm Happening" are seamlessly joined by drummer McCraven and Jones on tenor sax and flute on a remix of the same name. While Jack Wilson's "Frank's Tune," now called "De'Jeff's Tune," 'ventures a long way from the original with added keyboards and flute, it does have one of McCraven's wisest touches—spoken introductions from original Blue Note records, in this case by Blakey. Adding fresh grooves to classic jazz has uncovered new messages in venerated vessels. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released November 12, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released November 12, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released November 5, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released November 5, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released October 29, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released October 29, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released October 22, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released October 22, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released October 14, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Christmas music, which first became a common move for singers back in the 1950s, continues to exert a mystical pull on musicians from punk rockers to pop/jazz luminaries like Norah Jones. There are two paths to making a Christmas record: cover the classics or write your own tunes. Given that Christmas music is built on impossibly catchy one-hit wonders, and the list of successful songwriters includes such talents as Irving Berlin ("White Christmas"), Leroy Anderson ("Sleigh Ride") and Johnny Marks ("Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer"), the bar is high if you're banging out originals. On the other hand, presenting your version of the classics is equally daunting considering that you're following heavyweights like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Elvis Presley. Norah Jones decided to split the risk by molding classics into her style while also writing half an album of new Christmas originals. Twenty years past her early but still resonant hits like "Don't Know Why," and "Turn Me On" (both from blockbuster debut Come Away with Me) Jones makes her mark on the genre with the five tunes she penned, sometimes in collaboration with album producer Leon Michels. The single, a Jones original called "Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones)," is an enjoyably melodic holiday number. Her gospel-inflected "You're Not Alone" unfurls like a classic '60s country tune with an assembly of overdubs providing angelic vocals on the choruses and a pedal steel guitar ringing in the background. Pedal steel returns on "Winter Wonderland" where a synth sounds like timbales. The champ among the classics attempted, however, is "Christmas Don't Be Late" which gets a wonderfully slow, torchy arrangement. Memorable details include the oozy horns of Raymond Mason, Dave Guy and Leon Michels, the snare drum reverb, and Jones—singing her own harmonies—leaning into the "hula hoop" line. Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here," famous from the Peanuts cartoon, is a natural fit for Jones' piano-and-voice prowess. Berlin's "White Christmas'' gets a straight mid tempo cocktail jazz reading with Jones keeping up a brisk pace. On the other hand, the Elvis chestnut, "Blue Christmas'' gets an ultra-slow reading with Jones on piano and vocals, letting her impeccably tight vibrato stretch over this holiday lament. The other favorite that Jones makes her own is "Run Rudolph Run," best known as Chuck Berry's Christmas hit, which here benefits from a deep rhumba beat and reverb on her doubled vocals. Ever the mercurial talent, Jones' holiday dream is a worthy addition to the Christmas lexicon that's merry and bright and yet innovative where it counts. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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Vocal Jazz - Released October 14, 2021 | Blue Note Records

Christmas music, which first became a common move for singers back in the 1950s, continues to exert a mystical pull on musicians from punk rockers to pop/jazz luminaries like Norah Jones. There are two paths to making a Christmas record: cover the classics or write your own tunes. Given that Christmas music is built on impossibly catchy one-hit wonders, and the list of successful songwriters includes such talents as Irving Berlin ("White Christmas"), Leroy Anderson ("Sleigh Ride") and Johnny Marks ("Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer"), the bar is high if you're banging out originals. On the other hand, presenting your version of the classics is equally daunting considering that you're following heavyweights like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Elvis Presley. Norah Jones decided to split the risk by molding classics into her style while also writing half an album of new Christmas originals. Twenty years past her early but still resonant hits like "Don't Know Why," and "Turn Me On" (both from blockbuster debut Come Away with Me) Jones makes her mark on the genre with the five tunes she penned, sometimes in collaboration with album producer Leon Michels. The single, a Jones original called "Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones)," is an enjoyably melodic holiday number. Her gospel-inflected "You're Not Alone" unfurls like a classic '60s country tune with an assembly of overdubs providing angelic vocals on the choruses and a pedal steel guitar ringing in the background. Pedal steel returns on "Winter Wonderland" where a synth sounds like timbales. The champ among the classics attempted, however, is "Christmas Don't Be Late" which gets a wonderfully slow, torchy arrangement. Memorable details include the oozy horns of Raymond Mason, Dave Guy and Leon Michels, the snare drum reverb, and Jones—singing her own harmonies—leaning into the "hula hoop" line. Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here," famous from the Peanuts cartoon, is a natural fit for Jones' piano-and-voice prowess. Berlin's "White Christmas'' gets a straight mid tempo cocktail jazz reading with Jones keeping up a brisk pace. On the other hand, the Elvis chestnut, "Blue Christmas'' gets an ultra-slow reading with Jones on piano and vocals, letting her impeccably tight vibrato stretch over this holiday lament. The other favorite that Jones makes her own is "Run Rudolph Run," best known as Chuck Berry's Christmas hit, which here benefits from a deep rhumba beat and reverb on her doubled vocals. Ever the mercurial talent, Jones' holiday dream is a worthy addition to the Christmas lexicon that's merry and bright and yet innovative where it counts. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released September 24, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Composer, bandleader, and pianist Arturo O’Farrill delivers his Blue Note debut with his ten-piece Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble (drawn from his larger orchestra). Dreaming in Lions comprises two lengthy, multi-movement original suites. The title piece is inspired by Ernest Hemingway's novella The Old Man and the Sea, and is presented alongside "Despedida." Both were composed in collaboration with the Cuban Malpaso Dance Company and its artistic director, Osnel Delgado, and have been performed around the world. This music is dramatic and sweeping, filled with polyrhythms, dynamic textures, and complex harmonics. O'Farrill's lineup includes three percussionists, brass, reeds, winds, guitar, and a drum kit. The bandleader handles piano and electric piano. This music retains a live, spontaneous quality inspired by performing with the dance company in real time. The five-part "Despedida" suite is first. "Del Mar" offers the piano as a tolling church bell. A rumbling bassline frames the chords as a euphonium delivers the melody line while saxophones stutter in the backdrop. The trumpet adds an elegiac lyric line. The bandleader shifts gears with a post-bop-flavored son montuno, while the rhythm signals the change and the band swings like mad. "Intruso," with an electric bass, balances avant-jazz with post-bop, Afro-Latin funk, and carnival music. While "Beauty Cocoon" is a modernist bolero showcase for intricate flute, trumpet, and trombone work, it crosses rhumba and merengue with guaganco rhythms. "Ensayo Silencio" is a Latin jazz fusion jam with a strutting electric bassline, swirling, punchy, Joe Zawinul-esque keyboard layers, and buoyant tenor and brass engagement. The Dreaming in Lions suite is composed of nine movements. It's less celebratory -- more moody and detailed in execution. The title track offers slippery, ethereal piano as bass and flute create a melodic frame to assist the horns in building drama by combining folk forms, jazz, and classical music. "Scalular" is incendiary as the percussionists battle both one another and the bopping, skittering horn section amid angular piano montunos driven by a fleet walking bassline. "The Deep" is brooding. O'Farrill plays aggressive chordal vamps on a Fender Rhodes as trumpet soars over an undercurrent of layered, harmonized horns. The guitar and soprano sax playfully engage while the euphonium guides it all from the bottom. "Struggles and Strugglets" is a smoking, angular jazz-funk track wherein electric bass, guitar, and keys move against percussion and syncopated horns. "I Wish I Was" is a tender ballad with detailed, delicate brass, saxes, and piano harmonies. Son Adam O'Farrill's trumpet solo is one of the album's most moving moments. Closer "Dreams So Gold" is a meditative, classically tinged solo piano piece performed beautifully by O'Farrill's wife, Alison Deane. Dreaming in Lions is simply stellar. Its sophistication is underscored by O'Farrill's wild originality as a composer and arranger. This impeccably rehearsed band fires on all cylinders with an instinctive dramatic flair, infusing each composition with taste and color. In sum, Dreaming in Lions stands as one O'Farrill's most adventurous, passionately performed works. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 24, 2021 | Blue Note Records

Composer, bandleader, and pianist Arturo O’Farrill delivers his Blue Note debut with his ten-piece Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble (drawn from his larger orchestra). Dreaming in Lions comprises two lengthy, multi-movement original suites. The title piece is inspired by Ernest Hemingway's novella The Old Man and the Sea, and is presented alongside "Despedida." Both were composed in collaboration with the Cuban Malpaso Dance Company and its artistic director, Osnel Delgado, and have been performed around the world. This music is dramatic and sweeping, filled with polyrhythms, dynamic textures, and complex harmonics. O'Farrill's lineup includes three percussionists, brass, reeds, winds, guitar, and a drum kit. The bandleader handles piano and electric piano. This music retains a live, spontaneous quality inspired by performing with the dance company in real time. The five-part "Despedida" suite is first. "Del Mar" offers the piano as a tolling church bell. A rumbling bassline frames the chords as a euphonium delivers the melody line while saxophones stutter in the backdrop. The trumpet adds an elegiac lyric line. The bandleader shifts gears with a post-bop-flavored son montuno, while the rhythm signals the change and the band swings like mad. "Intruso," with an electric bass, balances avant-jazz with post-bop, Afro-Latin funk, and carnival music. While "Beauty Cocoon" is a modernist bolero showcase for intricate flute, trumpet, and trombone work, it crosses rhumba and merengue with guaganco rhythms. "Ensayo Silencio" is a Latin jazz fusion jam with a strutting electric bassline, swirling, punchy, Joe Zawinul-esque keyboard layers, and buoyant tenor and brass engagement. The Dreaming in Lions suite is composed of nine movements. It's less celebratory -- more moody and detailed in execution. The title track offers slippery, ethereal piano as bass and flute create a melodic frame to assist the horns in building drama by combining folk forms, jazz, and classical music. "Scalular" is incendiary as the percussionists battle both one another and the bopping, skittering horn section amid angular piano montunos driven by a fleet walking bassline. "The Deep" is brooding. O'Farrill plays aggressive chordal vamps on a Fender Rhodes as trumpet soars over an undercurrent of layered, harmonized horns. The guitar and soprano sax playfully engage while the euphonium guides it all from the bottom. "Struggles and Strugglets" is a smoking, angular jazz-funk track wherein electric bass, guitar, and keys move against percussion and syncopated horns. "I Wish I Was" is a tender ballad with detailed, delicate brass, saxes, and piano harmonies. Son Adam O'Farrill's trumpet solo is one of the album's most moving moments. Closer "Dreams So Gold" is a meditative, classically tinged solo piano piece performed beautifully by O'Farrill's wife, Alison Deane. Dreaming in Lions is simply stellar. Its sophistication is underscored by O'Farrill's wild originality as a composer and arranger. This impeccably rehearsed band fires on all cylinders with an instinctive dramatic flair, infusing each composition with taste and color. In sum, Dreaming in Lions stands as one O'Farrill's most adventurous, passionately performed works. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 15, 2021 | Blue Note Records

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Blue Note Records in the magazine