Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 - Top 11 Moments at the Blue Note in 2011

In Honor of today’s date, 11/11/11, today we are posting the TOP 11 Blue Note Jazz Club MOMENTS of 2011 thus far. This year has been so full of special events and surprise artists that it was hard to choose just eleven, so feel free to share your own in the comment sections below. If you’ve taken video, pictures, or have something to say, go ahead and post it! Here’s our list, in chronological order:

1.   MS. LAURYN HILL – January 3 – 5: This was by far the fastest selling show of the year, which is not surprising considering the rarity of seeing Ms. Hill and the intimacy of the Blue Note. The show was reviewed extremely positively, and yes, she did perform “Killing Me Softly.”

2.       ROBERT GLASPER with LUPE FIASCO, MOS DEF & KANYE WEST  - February 26: The show was billed as the Robert Glasper Experiment put together by AMI and Jill Newman Productions, and in addition to special guest Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def was rumored to be in the house. Then, Kanye West walked up the stairs, and 30 minutes later, all three were on stage freestyling…yes, this was at the Blue Note! If you haven’t seen this video, watch it now (courtesy of OkayPlayer/The Revivalist).

3.       CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF JAMES MOODY – March 28: James Moody wasn’t just an incredible jazz musician – he was one of the warmest, kindest, most gracious human beings ever to walk through these doors. He was so generous with his time and treated every person he met with dignity and respect. He left this world too soon in December of 2010, and on March 28, Moody’s wife Linda hosted a benefit concert for the Moody Scholarship Fund at the Blue Note featuring Bill Cosby, Jimmy Heath, Kenny Barron, John Lee, Paquito D’Rivera, Antonio Hart, Frank Wess, David Sanborn and just about every great musician in New York City. The tribute was poignant on a musical and emotional level, and we’ll be having another one next year at the same time with all of the money going to the Scholarship Fund.  Here’s a picture from the evening.

4.       BLUE NOTE JAZZ BENEFIT FOR JAPAN - April 18 & 19: On March 11, Japan was hit by a tsunami that caused thousands of deaths and devastating destruction. New York City, along with the rest of the world, quickly came to Japan’s aid with an outpouring of support. The artistic community in particular sprang into action, with benefits popping up all over the city. Japan-born Blue Note talent buyer Seiko Kinoshita, who also worked at our Blue Notes in Japan, put together The Blue Note Jazz Benefit For Japan at the Highline Ballroom which received so much support from artists and ticket buyers that they added a second night. Both evenings featured high-profile acts like McCoy Tyner, Madeleine Peyroux, Ron Carter and Renee Fleming, with 100% of the proceeds going to Japan’s Relief & Recovery Fund. Here, hundreds of prominent musicians wrote to Blue Note Tokyo about their love and support for Japan during their most trying times.

5.       GEORGE DUKE, AL JARREAU & ESPERANZA SPALDING – May 14: Longtime collaborators George Duke and Al Jarreau, the latter appearing at the Blue Note for the first time, joined forces for a week at the club. On May 14, the band was joined by recent Grammy Award winner for Best New Artist, bassist Esperanza Spalding. Click here for the set list from that evening, and here is a picture of the pair signing autographs at the gift shop.

6.       INAUGURAL BLUE NOTE JAZZ FESTIVAL – Month of June: June 2011 marked the first Blue Note Jazz Festival, which took the jazz world by storm as the city’s largest festival. “In its inaugural year, the Blue Note Jazz Festival is already a juggernaut,” wrote the Wall St. Journal, remarking on the 100 performances in 15 different venues all over New York City. The festival, which featured Brian Wilson, Chaka Khan, Dave Brubeck, Chris Botti, The Roots and so many more, was promoted in taxi cabs, on banners at the club and all over the city.

7.       THE ROOTS with…DAVE CHAPPELLE? – June 22: For one night only, Jill Newman Productions presented The Roots with Rakim & Black Thought performing the seminal hip-hop album Paid In Full on its 25th anniversary. Talib Kweli and Razel were in the audience and jumped on stage, but most surprising of all, legendary comedian Dave Chappelle showed up and actually talked to the audience from his seat. He made a few funny comments, but mostly gushed about what it was like to be a kid and hear Paid In Full for the first time. But most importantly, The Roots were on the Blue Note stage, and here’s some proof in video form.

8.       THE CRAZIEST NIGHT OF THE BLUE NOTE JAZZ FESTIVAL – June 24: There was one night that stuck out during the Blue Note Jazz Festival for the sheer volume of shows and talent presented on stages throughout the city. Dee Dee Bridgewater plus Chrisette Michele at Town Hall, Maya Azucena at The Highline Ballroom, Youssou N’Dour at Terminal 5, Milton Nascimento at Rose Hall in Lincoln Center, Roberta Flack at BB Kings, and Estelle and The Recessionals Jazz Band at the Blue Note. It took four tweets just to tell followers who was playing that night!

9.       RAY BROWN TRIBUTE BAND – August 16 – 21: Ray Brown is considered one of the founding fathers of the Blue Note, helping to bring some of the biggest artists to play here like Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie at a time when those artists were only playing concert halls. Fittingly, the Ray Brown Tribute Band is one of the hardest swinging bands around, featuring Christian McBride (a protégé of Brown), Dee Bridgewater, Benny Green and Greg Hutchinson, all of whom performed with the maestro at various points before his untimely passing in 2002. Concertgoers gushed that it was one of the best shows they’d ever seen at the club. Here’s some video footage of the band and coupled with interviews of the band members talking about Ray Brown.

10.   PAT METHENY – October 11 – 16: “This is the first time I’ve played a club in New York in 30 years,” Pat Metheny told a captive audience at the Blue Note in October. Joined by bassist Larry Grenadier, Metheny played electric and acoustic guitar, dabbled for one song on his Pikasso guitar and played his final tunes of the night with the Orchestrion, which was among the most impressive and unique musical feats ever to grace (or fit on) the Blue Note stage. One of the highlights of the week was Pat sitting by himself on stage, sound-checking his acoustic guitar with the beautiful, haunting melody of the theme song from the film Cinema Paradiso. Check out a New York Times review of the show here.

11.   CHICK COREA 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION – November 1 – 27: Not even midway through the run, Chick has already logged over 50 hours on the Blue Note stage including performances and rehearsals. So far he has performed with Return To Forever Unplugged, a trio with Brian Blade and Gary Peacock (pic here), with the Five Peace Band ft. John McLaughlin and Kenny Garrett (check for pictures), and in duos with Bobby McFerrin (rehearsing Beatles tunes video here). Incredibly, there is so much more to come: Chick and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet, the For Miles Band featuring Miles Davis band alumni, The Flamenco Heart band, duos with Marcus Roberts and Herbie Hancock, and finally the Original Elektric Band. Certainly one of the biggest and best celebrations ever at the Blue Note.

Have something to say? Share it here, and happy 11/11/11!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wall Street Journal: Weekend Conversations w/Jazz Legend Chick Corea

Beloved jazz artist Chick Corea of Miles Davis's band and "Return to Forever" sits down with WSJ's Jim Fusilli to discuss his upcoming gigs at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.

NYTimes: The Jazz Chameleon, in All His Colors


Chick Corea, the ebullient and eternally youthful pianist, bandleader and composer, turned 70 this year. Being a jazz musician, he’s bound by custom to celebrate this mile marker on the bandstand, aglow in retrospection. Had there been a corporate-sponsored jazz festival in New York this summer, he probably would have headlined Carnegie Hall sometime around his birthday, on June 12. Instead he’s taking over the Blue Note for most of November, beginning on Tuesday: two sets a night, in 10 different configurations, with collaborators old and new. It’s the more fitting option by far.

Mr. Corea has trained his public to expect nothing less of him. His career is among the most kaleidoscopic in jazz, encircling everything from plunging postbop to chamberesque Latin hybridism to superheated fusion. He’s among the most productive figures of jazz’s last 40 years, a worthy luminary with the instincts of a tinkerer, more committed to inquiry than to resolution.

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JazzTimes: Chick Corea to Play Month-long Residency at Blue Note

By Jeff Tamarkin

Chick Corea will celebrate his 70th birthday year throughout November with a month-long residency at New York’s Blue Note, featuring 10 different configurations in more than 40 performances. The extended gig also marks the 50th anniversary of Corea’s debut in Greenwich Village.

Among the scheduled performances are Corea with Herbie Hancock, Marcus Roberts, 
Bobby McFerrin, Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, Gary Burton, John McLaughlin and a special Return to Forever unplugged gig. The full schedule is below.

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Examiner: Q&A with Chick Corea on his 70th Birthday Celebration

By Justin Tedaldi

A DownBeat Hall of Famer, NEA Jazz Master and 16-time Grammy winner, living legend Chick Corea has flourished for over four decades as a celebrated jazz pianist and composer. The Massachusetts native first made a name for himself as a sideman in the 1960s with artists like Blue Mitchell, Stan Getz and Miles Davis, and in the 1970s he founded Return to Forever, one of the world’s premier fusion acts.

To celebrate his seven decades, New York’s legendary Blue Note Jazz Club is holding a month-long 70th Birthday Celebration residency from Nov. 1-27, which includes a lineup of 10 different groups and more than 30 musicians. Included on the guest list are Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, the Five Peace Band with John McLaughlin, and a special unplugged appearance from Return to Forever.

In this exclusive interview, I spoke with Corea about the gigs, his thoughts about turning 70, the reason Return to Forever initially disbanded, and his first conversation with Miles Davis.

What are your thoughts about playing for a whole month at the Blue Note?

It’s just totally invigorating and exciting and great, and I mean that. My friends that were able to join me that are going to play with me are such great people and inspiring musicians. The whole thing is like being in heaven, you know? With all this creativity to get into, it’s the ultimate pleasure to have. It’ll be a lot of work, for sure, but it’ll be a lot of fun, mainly.

Which shows are you looking most forward to?

I’m looking forward to everything; I don’t even know where to start. I’m halfway through preparing right now. Unfortunately, I had a few weeks off before the gigs started, and I was able to put a setlist together and try to organize it a bit, but I’m looking forward to the whole thing. There’s some kind of new configurations that’ll be interesting. I worked with Paul Motian and Eddie Gomez for a couple of weeks earlier this year at the Blue Note—we made a recording there—but Paul ended up not being able to make it, and Eddie didn’t have the schedule to do it at that slot, so I found Gary Peacock, who I haven’t played since, wow, the ’70s, I guess.

But then leading to replace Paul because he wasn’t able to make it, I found that Brian Blade had a day open in his schedule before coming in with the Five Peace Band. So it’s going to be Brian and Gary Peacock. Now that’s going to be very interesting to me; that’s a whole new thing. I’ve also got Gary Burton and the Harlem String Quartet. We recorded one track with the Harlem String Quartet for our new duet recording, so for the whole three nights with the string quartet, we’re going to review some of the lyrics and music that we’ve made in the late ’70s and early ’80s, whenever that was, and a couple of new things that I wrote for the sextet.

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Jazziz: Chick's Birthday Bash at the Blue Note

From November 1-27, Chick Corea will perform more than 40 times with 10 different lineups at the Blue Note in Manhattan. Basically, the Greenwich Village club will be hosting a month-long celebration of the keyboardist’s 70th birthday, and, as the schedule below clearly indicates, some of the most fabulous jazz talent on the planet will be joining in the festivities.

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Pollstar: Chick Corea’s 70th Birthday Party

In November Chick Corea will celebrate his 70th birthday with four weeks of concerts featuring 10 different groups and 30 musicians. The party includes Herbie Hancock,Bobby McFerrin, Return To Forever, Five Peace Band and more.

The bash takes place at New York City’s Blue Note between Nov. 1-27. The jazz club hosted Corea’s 2001 three-week residency marking his 60th birthday. The sold-out run of dates was recorded and then released in 2003 as the two-CD set Rendezvous in New York.

During the four weeks of dates, each night that is booked will features two performances with one show at 8 p.m. and a second at 10:30 p.m.

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The Revivalist: Chick Corea November Residency at the Blue Note

This year Armando Anthony “Chick Corea” turns 70 years old, and for the celebration of his life, he will be playing a month long residency throughout the entirety of November at Blue Note. Once a member of Miles Davis’ band, and one of the pioneers of the so-called fusion era, which merged jazz and electric rock music, Corea, the venerable pianist and keyboardist is one of the most celebrated jazz players in history.

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Examiner: Frank Gambale returns to his roots with R2F IV world tour, new ‘Soulmine’ album

By Carol Banks Weber

Frank Gambale is a strange mix of star and fan, Über-confidence and wide-eyed wonder. In his 26-some-odd years as a legendary guitarist and role model, he’s done a lot to advance the progress of play with his Sweep Picking Technique and Tuning System. He’s played with only the best there is, touring the world several times over, hitting the finest jazz festivals, nightclubs and concert halls, and helping to put out albums that would mark historical territory, as well as shape young minds who would then grow up to become stars themselves.

He’s done all this as a member of an elite jazz-fusion club,and as a diehard fan of that club. In most circles, that’s called living your dream. Single-handedly, the Australian wonder changed the entire landscape for rising guitarists in 1975 with his Sweep Picking Technique. The technique enabled guitarists the world over – once they painstakingly mastered it through tons of practice – to play faster, better, but with more ease and freedom of expression. Many before him had tried, but could only pull off one or two licks before giving up.

A Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) “Student of the Year” back in the day, Gambale used what he knew to help others through instructional books and DVDs, teaching gigs, and a line of his own guitars. To this day, he’s still revolutionizing the industry, with his Gambale Tuning System, which allows guitarists to achieve chordal capabilities of the piano on their fret board.

Besides developing techniques and gear, Gambale always turned heads wherever he jammed and whomever he jammed with. He’s collaborated with the Chick Corea Elektric Band, winning a Grammy and two Grammy noms in the process, Vital Information, Stu Hamm and Steve Smith, Billy Cobham, the Mark Varney Project, Maurizio Colonna, and GRP—not to mention his own critically acclaimed albums, about 20 of ‘em. And he’s not done yet. By Valentine’s Day next year, he and his wife BOCA will release “Soulmine,” featuring sexy vocals, positive lyrics, R&B jazz-funk stylings, and his signature racy guitar.

Currently, the man is on a world tour with Chick Corea’sReturn To Forever IV Band (Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Jean-Luc Ponty). The world tour kicked off last February, and reunited him with many of his colleagues from past adventures – Gambale was on Corea’s Elektric Band for a significant period in the ‘80s, and has played with Ponty. The band will conclude their world tour back in New York City, at the Blue Note, for a month-long birthday jamfest for Corea’s 70th, which will give Gambale even more to do – playing RTF and Elektric Band material.

Chick Corea’s Return to Forever IV kicked off in February of this year, with their world tour starting in Australia. How did you end up on this band and in this tour? I got a call from Chick inviting me to play. I have a long history with Chick from the Elektric Band and I have been a huge fan of RTF for as long as I can remember. So it was a welcome call.

You’ve worked with Chick Corea in his Elektric Band. What’s it like coming back to that environment, Chick’s world?

In this group, I am seeing Chick in a different light. RTF is clearly a collaborative band with Lenny and Stanley and Chick all having written music for RTF and each of them giving input on the arrangements. In the Elektric Band, all the music was Chick’s and so he was the clear band leader and roughly 15-20 years older than all of us. It’s great viewing him in this light and getting to see him amongst his peers.

Playing with Chick Corea isn’t a walk in the park. Describe his collaborative style—I imagine he has high expectations, is he a perfectionist? As with any great, serious musician, the expectation is high. I am the same way with my bands. Music at this level is serious. It’s the musical equivalent of the speed and precision of Formula 1 car racing, or skydiving, or intellectual conversation in the sense that, no one is fooling around. We love what we do and it’s exhilarating at this level. Of course it’s fun, too. We’re all perfectionists and the performances reflect that.

Back in … the ‘80s? Chick asked you to join his Elektric Band – after Return to Forever kind of folded – a jazz-rock fusion band. At the time, you were teaching and had several instructional books and DVDs out there. What in particular led to his picking you out of the crowd, was it the techniques you developed in those instructional books/DVDs, or did you do any shows where he caught your performance?

I already had two solo albums out when I auditioned for Chick — “Brave New Guitar” and “A Present For The Future,” which were gathering momentum, and being recognized by great musicians such as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, amongst others. I had also just gotten off tour with Jean-Luc Ponty. I think one of the things that attracted Chick to my playing was that he thought I was unique. I originated a way to play the guitar that has become standard in the guitar lexicon of techniques. But technique is one thing, and musicality is quite another. When I tell people that I never practiced technique, they scratch their heads. I only practiced musical concepts. These musical concepts may have been extremely difficult to play on the guitar, so they required enormous technique, but MUSICAL CONCEPT was the driving force! ... the huge desire to play a musical idea on the guitar that was in uncharted territory. So when Chick heard me play, he understood immediately what he was hearing, he really got it. It has resulted in a very long and rewarding musical journey for both of us. 

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Wall Street Journal: Jazz's 70-Year Flavor of the Month


In his early years, before he established himself as one of the leading bandleaders and composers in contemporary jazz, Chick Corea played keyboards in several incarnations of Miles Davis's band. Davis created more variations of music than any jazz musician before him, and in that sense he was a direct inspiration for Mr. Corea's polyglot career.

Even more than Davis, Mr. Corea has expressed himself in countless, widely disparate ensembles, in formats ranging from world-music ensembles to bebop trios to free-form collectives to symphony orchestras. Throughout November, he'll lead 10 of these combinations in a monthlong celebration of his 70th birthday at the Blue Note club on West Third Street.

The difference between Miles Davis and Chick Corea is that the former went through stages (Mr. Corea was present when Davis made his transition into electric music with "Bitches Brew" in 1969) and never looked back. Mr. Corea, by contrast, set an example for the current generation in that many of his divergent bands have run parallel to one another. At roughly the same time he was playing what became known as "fusion" with Davis (which was, among other things, an attempt to expand jazz's fan base into stadium-sized audiences), he was also creating some of the least "commercial" music of his career in Circle, the exceptional avant-garde collective he shared with multireed maverick Anthony Braxton.

As for foundations, the Massachusetts native said the forthcoming Blue Note series—and his multidimensional career—were only possible because of New York and its position in the jazz world. "I first moved to New York because all my musical heroes were here," the 16-time Grammy Award-winner said this week from his home in Clearwater, Florida. "New York in the '60s meant Miles, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey and the Jazz messengers, Charles Mingus; Count Basie was here; Duke Ellington was playing! New York is still the crossroads of jazz."

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