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Birth Of The Blue: “Uncompromising Expression” Box Set Celebrates 75 Years of Blue Note

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Blue Note - Uncompromising

Blue Note Records’ 75th anniversary celebration has already encompassed compact disc and vinyl reissues from the venerable jazz label’s classic roster of artists including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Clifford Brown and Thelonious Monk.  On November 4, the Blue Note party continues with the release of a new 5-CD box set.  Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression is the title of both the box set, a 75-track compendium of key Blue Note singles, and an accompanying hardcover book.  Uncompromising Expression, the book, has been written by jazz historian Richard Havers who has also curated the box set.  Havers performed the same duties last year for the book and CD releases of Verve: The Sound of America from Blue Note sister label Verve Records.

Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression, the box set, opens with the label’s very first artist, pianist Meade “Lux” Lewis, and comes to a close 75 years later with bassist Derrick Hodge.  Among the numerous artists featured are drummer Art Blakey, trumpeters Miles Davis and Donald Byrd, saxophonist John Coltrane, pianists Bud Powell and  Thelonious Monk, and vocalists including Norah Jones, Rosanne Cash and Cassandra Wilson.  (A separate set, with all of Monk’s Blue Note single releases on two CDs, will be issued on the same date of November 4.)

Founded in 1939 by German immigrant/impresario Alfred Lion and musician Max Margulis, Blue Note was quick to recognize the seismic changes coming to the sound of jazz – namely bebop and hard bop – in the late 1940s.  Adapting with the times, the Blue Note roster boasted some of the most legendary names in jazz, among them Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Art Blakey, Fats Navarro, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock. In the late 1960s, Blue Note was acquired by Liberty Records, which was in turn acquired by United Artists (the conglomerate of which was bought by EMI in 1979). The label’s output waned by the end of the 1970s, but within a few short years, the Blue Note name was reactivated as many of the label’s past triumphs were revisited on CD.  Eventually, Blue Note returned to new music including Come Away with Me, the Grammy-winning 2002 debut album by Norah Jones.  In 2006, a number of related labels were consolidated by EMI as the Blue Note Label Group, and today, Blue Note is a division of Universal Music Enterprises, a result of Universal’s purchase of many of EMI’s assets.

Each of the box set’s five discs covers a specific era of the label’s evolution.  Over 75 years, Blue Note has been at the vanguard of boogie, bebop, hard bop, bossa nova, soul jazz and beyond, and Havers has chronologically compiled the discs as follows:

  • Disc 1: From Boogie To Bop 1939 – 1953
  • Disc 2: Messengers, Preachers and Hard Bop 1953 – 1958
  • Disc 3: Struttin’, Moanin’ and Somethin’ Else 1958 – 1960
  • Disc 4: Bossa, Blues and Hits 1961 – 1965
  • Disc 5: Can You Dig It? 1969 – 2014

After the jump, we have more on these upcoming releases!

The five discs are housed in a compact box with a lift-off lid.  It also contains a 52-page booklet of liner notes by Haver and a complete discography of the 75 featured singles.  A lengthier history, though, can be found in Havers’ book, the first authorized history of Blue Note.  The 400-page hardcover includes forewords by Wayne Shorter, Robert Glasper, and current Blue Note President, producer Don Was.   The lavishly illustrated tome boasts album artwork, previously unpublished contact sheets and rare ephemera from the Blue Note Archives, plus commentary from jazz superstars and reviews of seventy-five key Blue Note albums.

Uncompromising Expression, the box set and the book, are both available from Blue Note Records on November 4 along with Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight: The Complete Blue Note Singles 1947-1952.  You can pre-order all titles below!

Various Artists, Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression (Blue Note 0600753550939, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

CD 1: From Boogie to Bop (1939-1953)

  1. Melancholy – Meade “Lux” Lewis
  2. Reminiscing at Blue Note – Earl “Fatha” Hines
  3. Summertime – Sidney Bechet Quartet
  4. Profoundly Blue – Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet
  5. Doctor Jazz – Art Hodes and His Chicagoans
  6. Topsy – Ike Quebec String Seven
  7. Tiny’s Boogie Woogie – Tiny Grimes Swingtet
  8. Oop-Pop-a-Da – Babs’ 3 Bips and a Bop
  9. Thelonious – The Thelonious Monk Sextet
  10. The Thin Man – Art Blakey and His Messengers featuring McKinley Durham
  11. Moody’s All Frantic – James Moody and His Bop Men
  12. Double Talk – The McGhee-Navarro Boptet
  13. Bouncing with Bud – Bud Powell’s Modernists
  14. Born to Be Blue – The Wynton Kelly Trio
  15. Straight No Chaser – The Thelonious Monk Quintet
  16. Bags’ Groove – The Milt Jackson Quintet
  17. Yesterdays – The Miles Davis All-Stars
  18. Roccus – The Lou Donaldson Quartet
  19. Safari – The Horace Silver Trio
  20. Tempus Fugit – The Miles Davis All-Stars
  21. Carvin’ the Rock – The Lou Donaldson-Clifford Brown Quintet

CD 2: Messengers, Preachers and Hard Bop (1953-1958)

  1. Message from Kenya – Art Blakey & Sabu
  2. The Preacher – Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers
  3. The High and the Mighty – Jimmy Smith
  4. Brownie Speaks – The Lou Donaldson-Clifford Brown Quintet
  5. Jay – Jay Jay Johnson
  6. Wee Dot – The Art Blakey Quintet
  7. Decision – Sonny Rolloins
  8. D.B. Blues – Kenny Burrell
  9. Funk in Deep Freeze – The Hank Mobley Quintet
  10. Oscalypso – Curtis Fuller
  11. Blue Train, Part 1 – John Coltrane
  12. Abdallah’s Delight – The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble
  13. Senor Blues – Bill Henderson and The Horace Silver Quintet

CD 3: Struttin’, Moanin’ and Somethin’ Else (1958-1960)

  1. Cool Struttin’ – Sonny Clark
  2. Tenderly – The Three Sounds
  3. Ain’t No Use – Bill Henderson and Jimmy Smith
  4. Ain’t No Use – The Sonny Clark Trio
  5. Encore – The Bennie Green Quintet
  6. Moanin’ (Parts 1 & 2) – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
  7. Somethin’ Else (Parts 1 & 2) – Cannonball Adderley
  8. The Rake – Dizzy Reece
  9. What’s New – Jackie McLean
  10. One Mint Julep – Freddie Hubbard
  11. Little Sheri – Stanley Turrentine
  12. True Blue – Tina Brooks

CD 4: Bossa, Blues and Hits (1961-1965)

  1. Miss Ann’s Tempo – Grant Green
  2. Midnight Special – Jimmy Smith
  3. One O’Clock Jump – Jimmy Smith
  4. Ernie’s Tune – Dexter Gordon
  5. Watermelon Man – Herbie Hancock
  6. Back at the Chicken Shack (Parts 1 & 2) – Jimmy Smith
  7. The Good Life – Kenny Burrell
  8. Our Miss Brooks – Harold Vick featuring Grant Green
  9. Blue Bossa – Joe Henderson
  10. Elijah – Donald Byrd
  11. Blue Frenzy – Freddie Hubbard
  12. The Sidewinder (Part 1) – Lee Morgan
  13. Cape Verdean Blues – The Horace Silver Quintet

CD 5: Can You Dig It? (1969-2014)

  1. Theme from Electric Surfboard – Brother Jack McDuff
  2. Black Byrd – Donald Byrd
  3. Chicago Damn – Bobbi Humphrey
  4. Change (Makes You Want to Hustle) – Donald Byrd
  5. Always There – Ronnie Laws and Pressure
  6. It’s Better Than Walkin’ Out – Marlena Shaw
  7. Thinking About Your Body – Bobby McFerrin
  8. Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) – Us3
  9. Better Days – Dianne Reeves
  10. I Can’t Stand the Rain – Cassandra Wilson
  11. Don’t Know Why – Norah Jones
  12. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Robert Glasper
  13. It’s All Over Your Body – Jose James
  14. Modern Blue – Rosanne Cash
  15. Liquid Spirit – Gregory Porter
  16. Holding Onto You – Derrick Hodge featuring Alan Hampton

Written by Joe Marchese

November 3, 2014 at 11:13

One Response

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  1. As expected, and as it should be, the first 4 CDs cover the first 25 years of Blue Note. The last single disc covers a period of just about 50 years (because there was nothing from 1965 to 1969). That says something about jazz history (and that of other musical styles as well). The great renaissance of post WWII music is over.

    Kevin

    November 3, 2014 at 12:30


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