I posted something snarky here a few days ago about a record store owner who I suggested was an anti-productive ambassador for jazz,. My unstated point was that this is the kind of “gray haired pony tail” guy (and yes, they're just about all guys) with a snotty, snobby attitude about what should be America’s music, who are mostly doing a heck of a job in turning the music into the domain of an ever-shrinking group of cult listeners.
So now, for those who haven’t heard, we have a president with John Coltrane and Miles Davis on his iPod, and the possibility that this music may have the highest profile it has had in this country since Duke Ellington received his Presidential Medal of Freedom from – swear to God – Richard Nixon.
All of which begs the question: who are the appropriate ambassadors for the music? Who can present it in a living, accessible, welcoming way that makes the audience grow, not shrink.
Well, how about this for starters: I saw the Blue Note 7 at Zellerbach Hall on January 15. This band has a tour that continues around the US at least through February, and celebrates the astounding catalog of music Blue Note Records has compiled over its seventy-year history, occasionally interrupted by the sort of solvency issues we’ve come to expect from jazz. The band: Bill Charlap, piano, Nicholas Payton, trumpet, Ravi Coltrane, tenor saxophone, Steve Wilson, alto saxophone and flute, Peter Bernstein, guitar, Peter Washington, bass and Lewis Nash on drums.
Aside from a wonderful evening of music, everybody took turns addressing the audience, everybody acted genuinely glad to be there, and with a number of Renee Rosnes arrangements (she’s the jazz pianist married to Charlap) they brought new life to a list of “Blue Notes Greatest Hits,” – I’ll post the play list after the jump -- while maintaining the drums-forward, high-energy horn ensemble sound that was the traditional Blue Note trademark.
I think Lewis Nash is a national treasure. Nicholas Payton’s tone is getting warmer and more compelling all the time. If you haven’t heard his version of Chinatown, stop reading this blog immediately and go download it from the CD “Into the Blue” at iTunes (I don’t know of any samples of it available anywhere).
In the meantime, here’s the Blue Note 7:
The playlist on January 15, right after the break:
Inner Urge, by Joe Henderson
United, by Wayne Shorter, arranged by Renee Rosnes
Chris-Cross, by Thelonius Monk
Search for Peace, by McCoy Tyner
The Outlaw, by Horace Silver
Idle Moments, by Duke Pearson (the well-known version was recorded by guitarist Grant Green, and Steve Bernstein was featured on the piece)
Hubtones, by the late Freddie Hubbard
Bouquet, by Bobby Hutcherson (another Renee Rosnes arrangement, featuring a gorgeous flute solo by Steve Wilson, and maybe the highlight of the evening)
Mosaic, by Cedar Walton (recorded by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers)