Blue Note turned seventy on January 13, at what is, admittedly, a shaky time for the famed record label. Jazz no longer has the popular appeal that it had in the 1940s and '50s, to speak nothing of jazz record labels, which face an even worse commercial quandary than the four big major label goliaths. Nonetheless, Blue Note soldiers on, kicking off the first quarter of '09 with a well-conceived homage to itself. The eight tracks on Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records are widely known classics culled from the label's bop catalog, the oldest — and ironically, the most abstract — of which is Thelonious Monk's 1951 tune "Criss Cross." The title track is an up-tempo, Afro-Latin-ish piece that Cedar Walton composed for the Messengers back in the early '60s. Other selections include Duke Pearson's effortlessly cool ballad "Idle Moments;" Horace Silver's "The Outlaw;" and Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance," on which trumpeter Nicholas Payton genuflects to the late Freddie Hubbard, who played on the original 1965 recording. Considering Hubbard's recent death, it's the most wistfully romantic moment of the album.
The personnel on Mosaic are current heavyweights of Blue Note, and include Lincoln Center trumpeter Nicholas Payton; tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane; and pianist Bill Charlap, the rather unassuming bandleader who arranged all but two of the album's compositions (his wife, SFJAZZ pianist Renee Rosnes, handled McCoy Tyner's "Search for Peace" and Hancock's "Dolphin Dance"). As soloists these men are phenomenal, even though they (wisely) stick pretty close to the source material.
There has been a lot of speculation in online forums about whether or not they might turn the Blue Note 7 into a permanent tribute band. After all, the label has enough material to keep them busy for decades. (Blue Note)
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