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April 2009

The Blue Note 7
Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records
Blue Note Records

Venerable old Blue Note Records, one of the last “major” jazz labels standing, has assembled in-house/road-show projects in the past, but this year’s “Blue Note 7” counts for something special. Here we have a versatile and hot aggregation of players, ably led by pianist Bill Charlap, fully up to the task at hand: celebrating the label’s 70th anniversary by revisiting classic tunes from the deep annals of Blue Note’s catalog and demonstrating the all-important axiom that jazz is both a profound historical foundation and an in-the-moment event.

With the album Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records, the old-meets-new equation is impressive and laid out from the first few fanfare-like measures of Cedar Walton’s driving title track (which also niftily ties in with the name of co-producer Michael Cuscuna’s respected reissue-minded label).

Suitably enough, Charlap is one of the prime contenders on the label’s current roster, with a growing and glowing discography to support claims that he’s on the short list of great living pianists. And the other players command attention, singularly and in tandem: trumpeter Nicholas Payton, saxists Ravi Coltrane and Steve Wilson, guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash.

Two of the boldest tunes on the set list, Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” (arranged by Payton) and Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” (in Renee Rosnes’ arrangement), have been tastefully revamped for the occasion. But these pieces, along with Monk’s “Criss Cross” (in a feisty Wilson chart) are among the more familiar and Real Book-approved titles on a list which otherwise ventures into solid but lesser-known terrain in the Blue Note catalog, including Duke Pearson’s languidly cool “Idle Moments” and the closing salvo of Horace Silver’s jubilant “The Outlaw.”

Originally published in April 2009
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