The Blue Note Seven ‘Mosaic’ (Blue Note) 4/5

Setting off the seventieth anniversary of arguably the most prestigious label in jazz history, and certainly the one by which all others are measured, comes this fitting tribute from a collective of present day musicians. It was the mid-1980s renaissance of Blue Note via the Pathe-Marconi vinyl re-issues from France and Bertrand Tavernier’s wonderful ‘Round Midnight’ (criminally still not available on DVD over here)that introduced a younger audience to the fabulous recordings of hammond organists Jimmy Smith and Big John Patton, the hard bop musings of Art Blakey, Jackie McLean and Lee Morgan, and the accessible yet avant-garde genius of Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers and Larry Young. This set of classic compositions on the label revisited focuses attention on the 1960s and in particular the hard-bop and modal sounds. The rhythm section is none other than Bill Charlap’s trio, a modern day Blue Note stalwart, and provides the required cohesion around which the other musicians are able to stretch out. These include tenorist Ravi Coltrane, altoist/flautist Steve Wilson and guitarist Pete Bernstein. While no single recording can ever fully represent the totality of music on offer on such a vast back catalogue(the 1950s catalogue in particular is deserving of a separate tribute), this tribute does enable one to enjoy the compositions of pianists of the calibre of Hancock, Monk, Silver and Tyner. Where the ensemble work best is on the modal and mid-tempo numbers and this is no better illustrated than on the delicious ‘Little B’s Poem’, a Bobby Hutcherson composition with sensitive flute playing from Wilson and fine ensemble performances all-round. The Grant Green piece ‘Idle Moments’ is rarely revisited and one wonders why. Here Pete Bernstein has the opportunity to solo with horns playing in unison. In a more uptempo vein, Horace Silver’s ‘The Outlaw’ is one of his less frequently covered pieces, but here is given a lovely Latin vamp before reverting to bop albeit with a continuous Latin tinge. The title track, a classic Jazz Messengers tune, receives a faithful rendition with polyrhythmic drumming even if the urgency of the original is near impossible to match. Unquestionably the 1960s was a fertile period for Blue Note and this is amply demonstrated on this recording which is far superior to the 1990s tributes by various artists and the ‘Blue Spirits’ compilation of Japanese artists that coincided with the sixty-fifth anniversary.

Tim Stenhouse