Friday, September 28, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The George Cables Project produced by Jill Newman Productions debuts at the Blue Note with an all-star cast of bassist Derrick Hodge, altoist Gary Bartz, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts with special guest trumpeter Roy Hargrove.


1. Email your name and phone number to

2. In the Subject Line, please title your email "BN BLOG CONTEST - GEORGE CABLES"

3. Indicate which set you would like tickets for (8pm or 10:30pm)

Monday, September 24, 2007


Johnny Griffin, who has been a creative force in hard-bop since the 1950s, has stayed away from clubs in the US for some time. His return to New York was highly anticipated, and he didn't dissapoint during his two night stint at the Blue Note this weekend. Griffin once said "I like to play fast. I get excited, and I have to sort of control myself, restrain myself. But when the rhythm section gets cooking, I want to explode." Despite his age (he'll be 80 next April), Griffin is still as happy as ever to get on stage and perform.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The two sides of Curtis Stigers

The Blue Note Blogger had a chance to interview Curtis Stigers about the evolution of his career. While you wait for the interview, check out some video clips: The first one is a link to his pop hit from 1991, "Sleeping With The Lights On".

Sleeping With The Lights On - Curtis Stigers, circa 1991

Hard to believe, right? Well check out his jazz, it sounds like he's been doing this all along!

McCoy Tyner's "QUARTET" reviewed at AllMusicGuide

McCoy Tyner's work with the John Coltrane Quartet is well documented, and this CD marks a welcome return to that format. Recorded live at Yoshi's in Oakland, CA, over New Year's, Joe Lovano does the honors in the tenor sax chair, while bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts hold the rhythm section together with honor, passion, and drive. The world-class bassist and drummer, usually known for their overt showmanship and over the top chops, show remarkable restraint and sensitivity throughout. Tyner and friends play several of his original compositions, well-known and revered over the years. Lovano sounds, eerily enough, like Pharoah Sanders, employing a slightly staggered expansive vibrato on "Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit," while using a more haunting stance à la Coltrane for "Mellow Minor," a new modern mainstream tune. Sounding more like himself, Lovano and the group join a loping desert caravan for the beautiful "Sama Layuca," with Lovano playing the part originally written for flute. They rip through "Passion Dance" and melt abject militarism during the poignant ballad "Search for Peace." Tyner, in character, utilizes a minimalist palette to extrapolate on improvisationally during his solos. After reported health problems, it is good to hear he is sounding quite inspired and energetic during the entire date. The happy song "Blues on the Corner" further cements his upbeat demeanor, while the finale/solo standard "For All We Know" is truly the real McCoy, replete with the many flourishes, dynamism, and harmonic colorations that distinguish him from all others. In many ways this is a remarkable date, a well-paced program with all the pieces (save "For All We Know") timed at around ten minutes, proof positive that Tyner's game is still very much on, and hovering at a very high level. --Michael G. Nastos - All Music Guide

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The received line on Norah Jones is that she’s secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) hiding her jazzy sophistication under a commercially accessible mixture of loungey torch and twang. Discuss music with singer-songwriter and saxophonist Curtis Stigers, however, and you might get a different interpretation of what Jones is doing, one that suggests that elegance and twanginess are more similar than we might think. “I discovered something while researching songs—particularly Bob Dylan tunes—for my last few jazz albums,” he begins, on the horn from his home state of Idaho. “Classic country songs really aren’t that far off from pop standards, structurally speaking. They adhere to the same verse-verse-bridge-chorus format; you could call it a Southern version of Tin Pan Alley. It’s something I think about when I do ‘Crazy’—which, of course, Willie Nelson wrote for Patsy Cline. It makes a lot of sense that I discovered an older tune like ‘Stardust’ through Willie’s version and not Frank Sinatra’s or Hoagy Carmichael’s.”


If Stigers had stopped at reinterpreting country songs, though, his recent Concord Jazz albums—beginning with 2001’s Baby Plays Around and continuing right up to the new Real Emotional—might not seem so novel. The album titles alone tell the story of an artist looking for potentially swinging repertoire in unlikely places: The inaugural release cites his Elvis Costello cover; 2002’s Secret Heart is named for a piece by Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith; 2003’s You Inspire Me comes from Brit roots-rocker Nick Lowe; and the two most recent discs reference Randy Newman (I Think It’s Going to Rain Today was released in 2005). “The joke about my career has always been that I crossed over in the wrong direction,” Stigers laughs, referring to his transformation from a multiplatinum-selling singer-songwriter in the ’90s (he recorded the theme to The Bodyguard) to what used to be called a saloon singer. The new disc begins with a Dylan cover, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” but the most cohesively varied stretch begins a couple of tracks later, when his craggy, burnished baritone follows a soulful Hammond B-3 driven version of Emmylou Harris’s “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It Now” with Stephin Merritt’s “As You Turn to Go,” and then slides into the early Tom Waits chestnut “San Diego Serenade.”

Stigers is humble about his latest achievements, in deference to those who’d question his jazz credentials as a result of his hit-making phase at Clive Davis’s Arista Records—when his work seemed more like a cross between Michael Bolton and David Sanborn. “I’m not trying to take credit for expanding the American Songbook,” he explains, “because I’m not the only one doing it—Cassandra Wilson comes to mind—and I still love and perform pieces like ‘All the Things You Are’ and ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily.’ But I do think the Songbook is a lot bigger than people give it credit for being. I’m sure [this] perception was born out of the rift that split jazz off from everything else around the time that Elvis Presley, and later the Beatles, got big.”

Stigers has had the unique opportunity to witness the schism from both sides of his career. He arrived in New York City with heavy jam-session skills, which he only put on hold once the majors came calling. “In 1992, I wanted to follow up my hit record with a jazz release,” he explains. “But of course, Clive wouldn’t hear of it. I ended up bringing the company a jazz record to get out of my deal, after some six years of acrimony and frustration. As for now, I kinda expected the jazz community to take a little time coming around to me. My first couple of discs have more conventional standards on them because it was important to me to prove that I wasn’t a dilettante.”

It’s hard to imagine that the singer’s bop is anything but seasoned when he’s onstage with a combo. He’s written a few fine tunes of his own (with brilliant keyboardist and coproducer Larry Goldings), and owing to his prowess as a saxist, Stigers even seems a natural at the dying art of scat singing. “I have no regrets about the music I’ve done,” he says, “but one thing I don’t miss about performing pop is having to scream over a thundering drummer and wailing guitarists. And what I’ve found out from looking for new songs is that the big anthemic power ballads from then aren’t really compatible with what I’m doing now anyway.”

Real Emotional is out now. Curtis Stigers plays the Blue Note Tue 18 and Wed 19.

— By K. Leander Williams

Monday, September 17, 2007


Ron Carter

Christian McBride

Russell Malone

Ron Carter's Golden Striker Trio

Christian McBride

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Today, The Blue Note's in-house record company, Half Note Records, officially announces the launch of the McCoy Tyner Music label imprint with "QUARTET". Recorded live at the close of 2006, "Quartet" features Tyner with the up-and-coming legends of jazz; Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, and Jeff "Tain" Watts. Starting today, the album will be available online and at any of your local retailers.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Roundup - Francisco Mela show

Music Review | Francisco Mela

A Jazz Drummer Who Says Cuba, Sí; Salsa, No

Thursday, September 6, 2007

NY1 to feature Francisco Mela, Half Note, & Blue Note...

NY1 TV reporter Clover Lalehzar came to the Blue Note last night to do a story focusing on the various facets of the Blue Note Jazz Club, including the in-house record company Half Note Records, the new subsidiary, McCoy Tyner Music, and the management division. Lalehzar talked to club president Steven Bensusan, executive president of Half Note and McCoy Tyner Music Jeff Levenson, and Francisco Mela, whose music was recorded over the last few days for the Half Note label. Look for more updates to see when the piece will air on NY1!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


This is an excerpt from the interview with Francisco Mela that appears in Jazz Imporov Magazine, Volume 5, No. 1

To subscribe to Jazz Improv Magazine, visit or call 1-888-472-0670

Interview by Eric Nemeyer

JI: What were your initial inspirations for pursuing drums as your primary outlet for expression?

FM: First of all, because I love rhythms and also because in my home town, Bayamo, which is a city full of culture and art. It is a city full of life, and traditional Cuban music. The rhythms are in the air. It will be impossible as a Cuban not to play percussion. Percussion is part of our culture. Something that really made me decide to take percussion, and the drum set as my outlet for expression, was when I went to a concert in my home town and I saw Osmani Sanchez, one of the most important Cuban drummers. His playing really inspired me. At that moment I wanted to be like him and the drum set became an extension of my life.

JI: What kinds of challenges did you experience in Cuba during your musical development?

FM: The biggest challenge was living in Cuba around all those talents, and great percussionists, and trying to be a professional musician, and create your own voice, your own sound as a drummer. Today, my biggest challenge is not only playing with Joe Lovano and Kenny Barron—the challenge is to keep a musical dialogue and be open to follow their deep melodies.

JI: Discuss the kinds of encouragement you received from teachers and contemporaries?

FM: The passion of music has been always in my heart. The most important thing that I received from my teachers was the inspiration—the focus in my career and being always open to learn.

JI: Could you talk about your association with the pianist Chucho Valdez?

FM: Chucho Valdez inspired me as a musician for his contribution to the Cuban music. He is one of the first Cuban musicians in creating the Latin jazz movement whose work I always followed. I had the opportunity to record an album with Gabriel Hernandez, one of the youngest piano players in Cuba. Chucho was part of the project, and producer. Chucho Valdez is the “key to open the doors” for so many young Cuban musicians, like me.

JI: Talk about Jane Bunnett with whom you recorded Cuban Odyssey and talk about the cultural connection that was made between Jane, who is Canadian and the Cuban culture?

FM: I had the privilege to be part of Jane Bunnett’s band, Spirits of Havana, for four years. I recorded the Grammy nominated album, Cuban Odyssey. Jane influenced my writing, combining the folklore Cuban music with free jazz and jazz. I had so many good experiences playing with Jane. The connection with Jane is that she loves Cuban music and I love jazz.

JI: Share with us the development oft your new album release Melao with Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Lionel Loueke, Anat Cohen, Peter Slavov, Leo Genovese and Nir Felder?

FM: I always have the passion to have my own band. In the past, I have two bands called Melason, and Melamonk. Since I started to play with Joe Lovano, he asked me to start writing my own music. Danilo Perez game me a little keyboard which helped me compose to create this project. Since I moved to Boston, I have been playing in different projects with them. The connection is always there. Therefore, I put this band together having Joe Lovano as a special guest. That’s how my CD came out, Melao... my real band!

Monday, September 3, 2007

John Scofield Master Class 11/3/07 (2pm -4pm)

The Master Class Series returns to the Blue Note with guitar legend John Scofield on Saturday, November 3, from 2pm to 4pm. As always, the Blue Note encourages everyone to bring his or her instruments, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “audience participation.” It is up to the artist to decide how the master class is conducted, and the classes often range from open talks, listening sessions, or group lessons to individual critiques and sessions.