Blue Note Records: The Ten Essential Albums

Blue Note Records: The Ten Essential Albums

Ten albums that represent the very best of what made Blue Note the premier jazz label during the golden age of jazz music (a period running roughly 1856 to 1968). They showcase the finest jazz music and artists that emerged during a time when jazz music was at it's commercial and creative peak.

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A Sense Of Purpose: Larry Young - "Unity"

A Sense Of Purpose: Larry Young - "Unity"

On Unity Larry Young showed the world he was no longer simply a Jimmy Smith clone, but instead revealed that his creative spirit was more aligned with the adventurous post bop and avant garde leanings that were emerging in jazz in the mid-1960s. Joined by Joe Henderson, Elvin Jones and a young Woody Shaw, Unity is a truly adventurous classic from the latter stages of the Blue Note catalog.

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Complex Beauty: Herbie Hancock - "Speak Like A Child"

Complex Beauty: Herbie Hancock - "Speak Like A Child"

On his second to last recording for Blue Note, Herbie stays on the creative hot streak he was on with Maiden Voyage, this time employing some more complex arrangements to create an absolutely beautiful record that remains one of his great musical statements. 

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Bright Pieces: Elvin Jones - "Merry Go Round"

Bright Pieces: Elvin Jones - "Merry Go Round"

On Merry Go Round the great Elvin Jones leads a large group of musicians including David Liebman, Steve Grossman and Gene Perla (all members of his touring group at this time), as well as his early-Blue Note partner Joe Farrell who was always at the top of his game playing alongside Jones. The resulting LP is a strong early seventies post bop record with some funky soul jazz thrown in for good measure.

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Bobby Hutcherson 1941-2016

Bobby Hutcherson 1941-2016

The jazz world lost one of the last living legends from the golden age of jazz when Bobby Hutcherson left us at the age of 75. Here are four live performances that I've been going back to this past week as a reminder of what a giant talent Hutcherson was as both a composer and a performer.

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Space Bop: Elvin Jones - "Genesis"

Space Bop: Elvin Jones - "Genesis"

Genesis is a fantastic piece of spacey post bop jazz featuring a fiery piano-less quintet with a talented three horn frontline. The music is a gorgeous mix of the soulfulness of hard bop with the freer styles of the avant-garde, and Jones anchors the whole affair with the type of inventive playing on the skins that has made him a legend. 

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Under The Influence: Fats Navarro - "Prime Source"

Under The Influence: Fats Navarro - "Prime Source"

While Fats Navarro didn't leave us a large body of work to appreciate, his true lasting legacy is the influence he had on the trumpeters that would come after him in the '50s and '60s. It would not be incorrect to say that as far as the jazz trumpet style and sound we know and love, all roads lead back to Fats Navarro. The double-LP Prime Source focuses on what is generally considered his finest period - the years 1947 to 1949 - when he worked with Tadd Dameron and Bud Powell, as well as in a group he co-led with his close friend and mentor Howard McGhee.

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Wayne's Brains: Wayne Shorter - "Schizophrenia"

Wayne's Brains: Wayne Shorter - "Schizophrenia"

During his time with Miles, Shorter recorded a series of albums for Blue Note that were all outstanding and some are even considered stone-cold classics (Speak No EvilJuJuAdam's Apple). Towards the end of this run of recordings came Schizophrenia in 1967, a fantastic record that shows off the "two" sides of Shorter - his straight ahead compositions, along with those that moved more into the free jazz and post bop realms. 

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