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Jazz - To be released January 1, 2050 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - To be released September 11, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - To be released August 14, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released August 7, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released August 7, 2020 | Blue Note Records

Immanuel Wilkins is a 23-year-old saxophonist and composer. Though well-known to musicians since he was a teen, his excellent playing on Joel Ross' acclaimed 2019 debut KingMaker caught the attention of jazz fans. Wilkins' tone is warm, but sometimes searing, and capable of expressing deep emotion with technical aplomb. His phrasing is eloquent, sometimes angular, and his compositions reflect a complex harmonic system derived equally from gospel, blues, spiritual post-bop, and the musical thinking of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. Omega was produced by pianist/mentor Jason Moran. Wilkins' quartet includes pianist Micah Jones, bassist Daryl Johns, and drummer Kweku Sumbry. The tunes here reflect Wilkins' feelings about the ongoing struggle begun by the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century and carried on by Black Lives Matter in the 21st. Lush melody and shifting tempos govern opener "Warriors." Jones takes the first solo, moving across jazz history with an expansive, swinging sensibility. The rhythm section's interplay is knotty and tight, addressing Jones' right-hand runs with physicality. "Ferguson: An American Tradition" frames the communities' reaction to the 2014 killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown, Jr. by a police officer who was later acquitted. Wilkins offers an elegy as his intro, portraying the event in reverse. It becomes more intense as piano and percussion fire in tandem; Wilkins' solo bridges them, its motion and rumbling dissent are colored by grief, sorrow, and immense pain. "The Dreamer," honoring James Weldon Johnson (the first executive secretary of the NAACP) is almost contemplative, with speculative piano chords, a sparse bassline, and brushed cymbals. Wilkins' lyric statement and solo are abundant in tenderness and empathy. "Mary Turner: An American Tradition" is a turbulent, angry, and inventive composition about the brutal murder of a pregnant black woman lynched (and worse) by a Georgia mob in 1918, after publicly calling out whites for her husband's murder. "Grace and Mercy" is another respite, its lyricism finds Wilkins and Jones joining in the melody before the saxist sets it aloft with his fluid solo. The album's centerpiece is a four-part suite of varying rhythmic and harmonic strategies that Wilkins composed at Juilliard. First, "The Key" offers subdued gospel tones with single alto notes as Johns plays chords and Sembry dances on his cymbals. "Saudade" is knotty modern post-bop that crisscrosses modalism with swing, and allows everyone a solo. "Eulogy" is a ballad entwining sax lines with slightly staggered piano chords as the rhythm section delivers angular asides, adding tension to the sweetness. Closing movement "Guarded Heart" weds an elegant modal lyric to fiery, heated, yet always graceful group improvisation. The title-track closer comes right out of John Coltrane's Impressions period. Jones counters with striated Latin rhythms and comps as Johns and Sumbry embrace both and Wilkins' solo buoys them in exploring outer dimensions. All told, it amounts to Omega as an auspicious, extremely impressive debut from an artist who arrives fully formed as a bandleader. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 6, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released August 6, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released August 6, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released August 6, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released July 17, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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This time capsule, recorded in 1959 in Rudy Van Gelder's Hackensack, NJ, living room and left undisturbed in the Blue Note vaults until now, contains the essential DNA of the first flowering of hard bop in the late '50s. All the genre hallmarks are present: There are intricate chase-scene originals and clever arrangements (the standard "Close Your Eyes") and brash blues-inflected outbursts that light up the solos. And yet, transcending those individual traits, defining not just the notes but the very spirit of the endeavor, is a quality that doesn't get discussed enough in jazz—precision, as in persnickety dotted i's and crossed t's. At times it's downright startling hearing these five musicians nail the details to the wall. They're hardly "just coolin'" here; they're attentive to the small nuances of tunes that might have been written the morning of the session. You can detect the commitment in the pitch-bending doiiiits and the staccato single-note jabs, in the explosion of a long-cresting press roll and the deliberate, nothing-extra stride of a Blakey-trademarked medium-tempo swing. You can hear it in the way trumpeter Lee Morgan and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley phrase together, adding grace notes that are almost inaudible but key nonetheless. And you can't miss it in the thrillingly open lanes where the solos happen. Blakey was revered for the communication he cultivated between musicians; using a repertoire of hits and jabs, he pulled his collaborators into rich, sometimes boisterous discussions, a mode of interplay that in many ways defines hard bop. There are plenty of examples on this record, but perhaps the most crystalline comes during Morgan's first few choruses on "Jimerick," a blazing uptempo blues. He begins with a short inversion of the theme, first restating it in a lazy way. Then he articulates more aggressively, as though trying to establish consensus on the tempo. Blakey picks that up, and jabs out an even sharper response from the metal rim of the snare drum. That unleashes some mean Morgan double-time bebop; what began as a single-note bugle call becomes an intricate conversation. Each element of that conversation is notable for its clarity, and each new soloist contributes to it in a different way—check the unhurried, wonderfully lucid way Mobley carves up the opening "Hipsippy Blues." The tune is one of three originals Mobley wrote for the date, and if it's familiar that's because it was included on a monumental live recording captured a few months later—At the Jazz Corner of the World, a fiery and complex document that's become part of the "essential listening" jazz canon. Just Coolin', which is apparently the only other recording of this short lived incarnation of the group, might be a step below that in terms of intensity. But only a step. © Tom Moon/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released July 17, 2020 | Blue Note Records

This time capsule, recorded in 1959 in Rudy Van Gelder's Hackensack, NJ, living room and left undisturbed in the Blue Note vaults until now, contains the essential DNA of the first flowering of hard bop in the late '50s. All the genre hallmarks are present: There are intricate chase-scene originals and clever arrangements (the standard "Close Your Eyes") and brash blues-inflected outbursts that light up the solos. And yet, transcending those individual traits, defining not just the notes but the very spirit of the endeavor, is a quality that doesn't get discussed enough in jazz—precision, as in persnickety dotted i's and crossed t's. At times it's downright startling hearing these five musicians nail the details to the wall. They're hardly "just coolin'" here; they're attentive to the small nuances of tunes that might have been written the morning of the session. You can detect the commitment in the pitch-bending doiiiits and the staccato single-note jabs, in the explosion of a long-cresting press roll and the deliberate, nothing-extra stride of a Blakey-trademarked medium-tempo swing. You can hear it in the way trumpeter Lee Morgan and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley phrase together, adding grace notes that are almost inaudible but key nonetheless. And you can't miss it in the thrillingly open lanes where the solos happen. Blakey was revered for the communication he cultivated between musicians; using a repertoire of hits and jabs, he pulled his collaborators into rich, sometimes boisterous discussions, a mode of interplay that in many ways defines hard bop. There are plenty of examples on this record, but perhaps the most crystalline comes during Morgan's first few choruses on "Jimerick," a blazing uptempo blues. He begins with a short inversion of the theme, first restating it in a lazy way. Then he articulates more aggressively, as though trying to establish consensus on the tempo. Blakey picks that up, and jabs out an even sharper response from the metal rim of the snare drum. That unleashes some mean Morgan double-time bebop; what began as a single-note bugle call becomes an intricate conversation. Each element of that conversation is notable for its clarity, and each new soloist contributes to it in a different way—check the unhurried, wonderfully lucid way Mobley carves up the opening "Hipsippy Blues." The tune is one of three originals Mobley wrote for the date, and if it's familiar that's because it was included on a monumental live recording captured a few months later—At the Jazz Corner of the World, a fiery and complex document that's become part of the "essential listening" jazz canon. Just Coolin', which is apparently the only other recording of this short lived incarnation of the group, might be a step below that in terms of intensity. But only a step. © Tom Moon/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released July 10, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Gerald Clayton joins Blue Note Records with a live album recorded in the Mecca of Jazz, the Village Vanguard. Joining the pianist, who since 2017 resides in Los Angeles (where he grew up) after ten years in New York, are his most faithful musicians: Logan Richardson on alto saxophone, Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone, Joe Sanders on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. And to accompany these legendary names at Blue Note and the Village Vanguard (“It’s such a special sacred place for music! You really can feel the presence of what’s occurred in the room.”), Clayton adds covers by two equally legendary musicians (Bud Powell with Celia and Duke Ellington with Take the Coltrane) and a gold standard track (a more than eleven minute-long version of Body and Soul on which his delicate, sepia-swing infused playing is one of the great moments on the album). With such great characters and setting, it remains only to listen to the stories this quintet have to tell over one and a quarter hours. While chemistry and interaction between the players is intense, there is a sparkling virtuosity and, in line with Clayton’s philosophy, a sense of sincerity is not lacking: “I think the live setting is the most honest testament to what it is we do all year round. I called it Happening to highlight the fact that the music is living, that we have a whole lot of happenings throughout the year, and performances at the Village Vanguard are some of the most special of those happenings.” Contemporary hard bop, revisited vintage swing and some more deconstructed tracks (A Light), Gerald Clayton has the technical but, most importantly, creative means to venture into all possible territories. This old student of Kenny Barron who grew up alongside Roy Hargrove, Diana Krall and Charles Lloyd impresses from beginning to end on this record. And with his ability to mix traditional and modern styles, he is more than ever one of the most inventive musicians of his generation. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz 
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Jazz - Released July 10, 2020 | Blue Note Records

Since stepping out of the long shadow cast by the Clayton Brothers on the late Roy Hargrove's 2008 Earfood and Kendrick Scott's Reverence the following year, pianist Gerald Clayton has been turning heads as a composer, bandleader, and soloist. Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard, is his Blue Note debut. Clayton offers originals and standards in trio and quintet settings. His sidemen for the occasion are bassist Joe Sanders and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson, both longtime collaborators; tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, who worked with Clayton on Scott's Reverence and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's The Heart Emerges Glistening, and drummer Marcus Gilmore, a first timer in the pianist's universe, though he'd previously worked with Smith. The 75-minute program consists of seven tunes, all of them long. It opens with an original, "Patience Patients." Arranged for quintet, this labyrinthine exercise in post-bop offers mysterious lyric twists as the saxes lilt and lope to form a backdrop that is equal parts Eastern modalism, modern classicism, and Latin jazz. The horns take the head through modal harmonic terrain before dropping out; the rhythm section locks in Clayton's canny solo that allows for Smith's solo re-entry in a wide-open space. "A Light" offers an abstract, Spanish-flavored take on the motif before the rest of the band enters. Richardson's compelling, even bracing, alto break bridges Clayton's percussive chord voicings and angled arpeggios to introduce Smith's solo, which is offered with David S. Ware-esque physicality, lyricism, and control before the band explore alongside him. Bud Powell's "Celia" is rendered by the trio. Clayton offers a deliberative solo remark on its tonal structure to introduce a rhythm section on stun. The other members push the pianist hard and he responds with exuberant swing. The other trio tune is an emotionally resonant "Body and Soul." Opening again with a piano solo, Clayton liberally extracts fragments of the melody to erect a vulnerable but resonant intro. Sanders and Gilmore whisper under his keyboard as he injects nuance to command the harmony. "Envisionings" is a modal blues with muscular soloing from Smith and Richardson amid forceful rhythmic invention and harmonic discovery. Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" closes the set with a Monk-like piano intro (you can hear traces of "You Needn't" in its cadence) before drums and bass enter double time, and the horns deliver the knotty head in staggered tandem, stretching time and swing. Everyone gets to solo in this 14-minute monolith; they lock on to Duke's orgiastic collision of harmony and rhythm, exploring its implications by rendering new statements rather than repeat the plainly stated motifs in an arresting conclusion. Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard is a splendid example of Clayton's arrival as a master possessed of enviable and original technique and a kaleidoscopic imagination. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 26, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released June 26, 2020 | Blue Note Records

Derrick Hodge is a contemporary musical renaissance man. A top-flight bassist known for his core membership in the Robert Glasper Experiment, he is also a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer who has worked with everyone from Common and Terence Blanchard to Maxwell, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Gretchen Parlato. Color of Noize is at once the title of his third album and the name of his band, comprised of pianist/organist Jahari Stampley, keyboardist and synth player Michael Aaberg, drummers Mike Michell and Justin Tyson, and DJ Jahi Sundance on turntables. Hodge plays bass, guitar, keys, and sings. He co-produced the set with Don Was. Color of Noize is the first time Hodge has worked with an outside producer. Cut live in studio, his musicians encountered the music only when they were about to record it; improvised moments are abundant here. Hodge doesn't meld genres, he blurs them in an exotic, resonant, uplifting music of his own. Groove and flow become multivalent expressions of a single creative voice through instrumental hip-hop, contemporary jazz, indie rock, and soul; they emerge to offer emotional depth and spiritual heft. "The Cost" opens with sampled, fragmented voices hovering above fretless bass, turntables, reverb, wafting organ, and lithe piano, grooving through the studio haze in a thunderous crescendo with lightning-fast breaks and vamps that bind them. First single "Not Right Now" whispers in with hip-hop beats before Hodge's economical bassline becomes the tune's melodic voice. When the band enters, they embellish and expand the harmonic ideas as he improvises. Hodge plays upright bass arco-style alongside his electric on "You Could Have Stayed," a soulful ballad that simultaneously evokes R&B and sweet Southern gospel. Commencing quietly as a sparse harmonic notion, organ swells and junglist drumming escalate the tempo as declamatory synths create a maelstrom for furious bass soloing. Second single "Heartbeats" seemingly appears from the ether with reverbed tom-tom and a hummable bassline tenderly adorned by piano and electronics. It foreshadows "Brand New Day," the souled-out acoustic guitar jam driven by a hovering Hammond B-3 to support Hodge's singing, as do piano and an elegantly hushed kick drum. His elegantly distorted bass solo breaks it open to impart emotional, spiritual, and carnal truth. Color of Noize pushes past Hodge's earlier albums. It's a fully realized project that will appeal to any listener willing to embrace its spontaneity. Even in its rare, chaotic, cascading moments, the album expresses a wholeness most modern musicians are incapable to summon. Hodge is an accommodating, even generous, musical explorer and therefore gets the max from his material, production, playing, and sidemen. Based on its quality, Hodge takes his place in the company of a few visionary peers such as Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, and the late Mick Karn. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released June 19, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released June 19, 2020 | Blue Note Records

After four previous albums that to varying degrees meld his idol Django Reinhardt's gypsy jazz with French chanson in originals and specially chosen covers, guitarist and vocalist Thomas Dutronc realizes a dream with Frenchy. Accompanied by his quartet and an international cast of guests including Iggy Pop, Diana Krall, Stacey Kent, Youn Sun Nah, Haley Reinhart, Jeff Goldblum, and Billy Gibbons, he pays homage to the timelessness of French song with a mostly wonderful result. Iggy and Krall assist on Hernri Bette's and Andre Hornez's "C'est si Bon," immortalized by Yves Montand. While this version doesn’t add much, it's delivered bilingually, thus embracing Jerry Seelen's English lyrics. Edit Piaf's theme, "La Vie en Rose," finds Gibbons adding a silvery touch to an uncharacteristically languid guitar solo. The particular quality in the grain of Dutronc's voice and phrasing bridge Piaf's clipped enunciation with Chet Baker's vulnerable delivery style. "Plus Je T'embrasse," penned by American composer Ben Ryan, was rendered iconic by Blossom Dearie in 1958. Dutronc reads it with fingerpopping hipster sass. American soprano saxophonist, jazz giant Sidney Bechet (beloved in France since 1922) scored a hit there with "Petit Fleur." Its Latin percussion and lonely musette frame Dutronc's vocal and guitar exquisitely. He also reimagines chart hits by two French groups who composed their lyrics in English: A sultry, almost erotic read of Air's "Playground Love" with South Korea's Nah, and an all but unrecognizable version of Daft Punk's international smash "Get Lucky." While Dutronc's vocal on the latter is unsuitable for its melody, his hip take on gypsy-cool jazz adds dimension and savvy. There's another fine duet here between the guitarist and Stacey Kent on a resonant, sensual take of Pierre Barouh's title theme for the film "Un Homme et Une Femme." Frenchy couldn’t exist without a tune by Reinhardt (the French press has dubbed Dutronc "Django's Son"), a modern version of "Minor Swing" that replaces Stephane Grappelli's violin with a Rhodes piano, popping electric guitars, and hyper-strummed mandolin. Alongside Haley Reinhart, Dutronc offers a resilient, rockist read of Jacques Brel's eternal "If You Go Away" adds to a lineage started by Georges Brassens and Leo Ferre. A truly confusing entry here is the inclusion of "My Way." Set to the music of the French song "Comme d'habitude," composed and written by Jacques Revaux, Frank Sinatra's signature version (with unrelated English lyrics by Paul Anka), is the standard no matter who sings it. Dutronc's attempt to straddle cultural lines is valiant, but so wispy it should have been abandoned. Further, on Sacha Distel's and Jean Broussolle's "La Belle Vie" (Yankees know it as Tony Bennet's "The Good Life"), is temporarily elevated by Goldblum's deft pianism, but his uneven, ever so slight singing voice, when paired with the guitarist's expressive baritone, proves detrimental. Dutronc planned and recorded Frenchy with great care and more than a little skill. Fans will find much to delight in. However, attraction for non-Francophone audiences may prove -- despite the album's high quality -- somewhat limited. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 12, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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A misconception has sometimes been associate with Norah Jones: that the Texan is little more than a pleasant light-jazz singer whose albums serve as harmless background music for high-brow and proper evening dinners. Though her writing, playing and eclectic collaborations, she has clearly proved that she is far more interesting than this cliché. And this 2020 offering is a new illustration of her complexity. As is often the case with Norah Jones, Pick Me Up Off the Floor is not quite jazz, not quite blues, not quite country, etc… Her genre-defying music works primarily to suit the song being played. Here we find what has been left behind after sessions with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Thomas Bartlett, Mavis Staples, Rodrigo Amarante and several others.But for all that the result is not simply a contrived mishmash of collaborations but a collection of songs that hold the same silky groove (present on six out of 11 tracks on the record in which Brian Blade’s drums work delicate miracles) and calm sound which increasingly suits the artist, somewhere between pure poetry and realism. “Every session I’ve done, there’ve been extra songs I didn’t release, and they’ve sort of been collecting for the last two years. I became really enamoured with them, having the rough mixes on my phone, listening while I walk the dog. The songs stayed stuck in my head and I realised that they had this surreal thread running through them. It feels like a fever dream taking place somewhere between God, the Devil, the heart, the Country, the planet, and me.” Rarely has Norah Jones sang with such strength, like on I’m Alive where she sings of women’s resilience, or on How I Weep in which she tackles love and exasperation with unequalled grace. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released June 12, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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Ambrose Akinmusire is the most intriguing jazz musician of his generation. Each one of his albums showcases the scope of his vivid imagination, a passion for creative freedom, an unfailing accuracy when playing and a deeply personal approach to music. In 2018, he released the beautiful and daring Origami Harvest which featured a string quartet and an MC and combined classical and contemporary chamber music, soul and spoken word. The trumpeter from Bay Area even occasionally freelances for Kendrick Lamar. He now returns to a more classic setting alongside his bandmates Sam Harris on piano, Harish Raghavan on bass and Justin Brown on drums. Well, at least on the face of it, as Akinmusire’s narrative approach and fidelity to Great Black Music render his work unique. For his fifth Blue Note album entitled On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment, he tackles the complexity of black life in America head-on, having seen the best and the worst of his country and channels it all into these original blues compositions. It’s the same roadmap that has guided his musical journey since the beginning. “In a way, I was thinking about this as a sequel to my first record for Blue Note, I’m returning to the landmarks on my first album When the Heart Emerges Glistening.”. As with his previous work, a feeling of “otherness” and what that means in a country with such a turbulent racial history is central to his music, but here it is intensified. The well-attuned quartet are in dialogue with one another, sometimes holding themselves back. Ambrose Akinmusire, himself, is far from shy, the jazz in On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment is simply imbued with an extraordinary serenity. His compositions surpass those of his contemporaries, notably Mr. Roscoe (Consider the Simultaneous), a tribute to Roscoe Mitchell, the saxophonist from the Art Ensemble of Chicago (the first band he saw on stage at just 13 years old!), whom he had met two years before recording this. Roy is another superb tribute, this time to trumpeter Roy Hargrove who passed away at the end of 2018. This one is a slower, experimental post-bop piece driven by an almost telepathic understanding between the four musicians. The final track, Hooded Procession (Read the Names Aloud), is a stripped-back song that features a solemn Fender Rodes piano playing solo. This is a fantastic album which seems to look ahead to the future as much as it reflects on the past. The last sentence of the liner notes written by saxophonist Archie Shepp says it all when it comes to Akinmusire – “This is the Cat!” © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released June 12, 2020 | Blue Note Records

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