Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Last year John Mayer came and played with Botti and the band...

Who knows what will happen this year??

Friday, December 19, 2008


Béla Fleck and the Flecktones
Friday, December 19, 2008

Sick of holiday music? Not if Béla Fleck can help it. On the new CD "Jingle All the Way," the world's premier banjo player freshens up "Jingle Bells" with Tuvan throat singers, bends "Silent Night" around 5/4 time, and lets longtime bassist Victor Wooten solo on Mel Torme's classic "The Christmas Song." Béla Fleck and the Flecktones pause during their five-night run at the Blue Note to get us in the holiday spirit with a live in-studio performance.Béla Fleck and the Flecktones are playing two shows a night at the Blue Note through Dec. 21. Performances are at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


In this clip, altoist Gary Bartz and Savion Glover take center stage as Joe Lovano looks on. More videos to come!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Video: McCoy Tyner 70th Birthday Celebration Sound Check Clips

Two quick clips of sound check with McCoy Tyner, drummer Eric Gravatt, bassist Gerald Cannon, and special guests Marc Ribot on guitar and tap-dancer Savion Glover. This was the first time Ribot and Glover were on stage together. Just hours later, they were performing the first set of the week at the Blue Note.

Sound Check Clip 1

Sound Check Clip 2

McCoy on Bloomberg TV - MUSE

On Monday afternoon, piano legend McCoy Tyner met interviewer Patrick Cole at Bloomberg Studios for the international weekend news program "Muse" on Bloomberg TV. The show will air sometime in mid-January. Below is the view from the control room.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Jazz pianist and Half Note Records/McCoy Tyner Music recording artist McCoy Tyner went to WNYC radio with Leonard Lopate today to discuss his new recording GUITARS and his upcoming dates at the Blue Note from Dec. 9 - 14. The dates will feature his trio and tap-dancer Savion Glover throughout the run, as well as special guests Marc Ribot (12/9), Joe Lovano (12/10), Ravi Coltrane (12/11 - 12), Bill Frisell (12/13), and John Scofield (12/14).

Monday, October 27, 2008


Roy Ayers
Jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers makes his debut at New York City's famous Blue Note jazz restaurant from October 28-29. As part of Blue Note's 'Soul Week,' with Leon Ware will take the stage to perform some of his timeless classics on Oct. 27. On October 31, Soul singer Res will also make her Blue Note debut in a show produced by Jill Newman Productions. 'Soul Week At The Blue Note' takes place October 27, 29-30 (Ayers), and Oct. 31 (Res).

Monday, October 20, 2008


Charlie Haden's music is beyond category. Pull a recording at random from Haden's catalogue that spans his 40 year career as a bandleader and you might get avant-garde jazz, noir jazz, world music, or country music - the genre of choice on his latest release Ramblin' Boy (Decca, 2008). Like it or not, a Charlie Haden recording is reflection of the man himself, be it personal, political, or both. When Haden returns to the Blue Note for his weeklong run starting on Election Day, November 4 (alongside Carla Bley and his 12-member Liberation Music Orchestra), his political side is certain to emerge. The LMO was formed in 1969, taking much of its inspiration from the music of the Spanish Civil War on their self-titled debut, composed in protest of the war in Vietnam. Haden's liberal views have been widely publicized, and many of his albums have been composed in opposition to whoever was in the White House at the time. In fact, New Jersey based journalist Elzy Kolb recent mused that "the only advantage of living in such 'interesting' political times is that they sometime result in a new LMO CD." Regardless of which way the 2008 election goes, Haden, Bley, and the LMO's music will be full of fire and passion. Below, the orchestra performs Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings arranged by Bley for horns.


For all of you music fans who are coming from all over to check out the plethora of CMJ shows in New York, don't forget that we have two stellar CMJ acts at the Blue Note: Maya Azucena on Friday, October 24, and Otis Grove on Saturday, October 25.

Maya Azucena, vocals
Christian Ver Halen, guitar
Other musicians, TBA
$10.00 $10.00

Sam Gilman, hammond organ, fender rhodes, Clavinet, acoustic piano
Tyler Drabick, guitar
Blake Goedde, drums/percussion
$8.00 $8.00

Hyperballad - Bjork vs. Bjorkestra

Here are two live versions of Bjork's "Hyperballad" - a live, more upbeat version of the original performed by Bjork and another as performed by Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra, who will appear at the Blue Note tonight only. Regardless of which one you like "better," the creativity on behalf of the Bjorkestra can't be denied. Over the last ten years or more, Bjork has been one of the most covered artists by jazz musicians.



Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCoy Tyner *NEW WEBSITE* Launched

Check out McCoy Tyner's new and improved website for tour dates, videos, and more!

Friday, October 3, 2008

On a Visit From Brazil, a Certain Vowel in Tow

Music Review | Gal Costa

Published: October 1, 2008

photo by Michelle V. Agins of the NY Times

Whenever Gal Costa draws out a flat “a” at the end of a Portuguese word, she wins. She can do this as much as she wants, and it always works. She doesn’t use it showily; she’s in her early 60s now, and her voice has become darker and softer. But the corners of her mouth widen so that you can see her back teeth, her tone dramatically brightens, and suddenly what was language becomes purely sound.

Halfway through her first set at the Blue Note on Tuesday, where she plays through the week with only the guitarist Romero Lubambo accompanying her, she sang a version of Caetano Veloso’s “Lindeza.” It’s a love song without a specific object — maybe just the idea of beauty itself — and as she sang the opening line “coisa linda” (“beautiful thing”), she won twice. After that came “louca,” “boca,” “acreditar,” and then, a bit later, the line she had clearly been waiting for: in a downward stepwise melody, “lua lua lua lua.” It meant “moon,” four times, but it was as if she had cracked open the word, had thrown away the shell of meaning and had shown us the viscous stuff inside it.

Singing this particular vowel pulls her face into a smile, and that was good too because Ms. Costa seemed otherwise preoccupied and slightly downcast between songs. For someone who clearly cares about sound, she had reason to be anxious: a show this intimate was an experiment.

In her American appearances over the last several years she has compressed her performance style: big concerts have given way to appearances with a small jazzlike ensemble, and now, unprecedentedly, this. In the set’s ballads, and in bossa novas done the right way — as miniaturized adaptations of percussive samba, with strong and subtle swing — there was a great deal of intricacy. She’ll need the week to get used to the room and to Mr. Lubambo, with whom she hasn’t played much in the past.

But the signs are promising. Ms. Costa has chosen some of the most durable songs from Brazilian popular music — songs by Chico Buarque, Antonio Carlos Jobím, Ary Barroso and Mr. Veloso, among others. (“The Girl From Ipanema” was among them, delivered half in Portuguese and half, unnecessarily, in English.) For his part, Mr. Lubambo was working hard. A highly fluent guitarist with a lot of jazz knowledge but enough taste to leave bossa novas uncluttered, he brought his own remarkable introductions and arrangements of Jobím’s “Wave” and Barroso’s “Aquarela do Brasil.” At the best points of the set they both gave off an intense affection for the songs, and you could grasp it more clearly without other musicians around them.

Gal Costa and Romero Lubambo will perform through Sunday at the Blue Note, 131 West 3rd Street, West Village,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Today, Half Note Records will release two brand new recordings:

1. Francisco Mela: Cirio: Live at the Blue Note

2. McCoy Tyner CD/DVD: GUITARS

Friday, September 19, 2008


Three major shows coming up at the Blue Note that should peak the interest of Bluegrass and folk fans. While these artists are not jazz musicians, they do have roots in improvisation.

October 9 - 12
Jerry Douglas - dobro
Luke Bulla - violin
Chad Melton - drums
Todd Parks - bass
Guthrie Trapp - guitar

November 10 - 11 & 14-16

December 17-21
Bela Fleck, banjo
Jeff Coffin, saxophones
Victor Wooten, bass
Future man, percussion/drum machine

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ron Carter This Week; New CD with McCoy Tyner on the 23rd

Ron Carter is performing this week at the Blue Note with his stellar trio featuring Mulgrew Miller and Russell Malone through the 21st. Just two days later, McCoy Tyner will release a CD/DVD on McCoy Tyner Music/Half Note Records titled GUITARS featuring sp. guests John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Bela Fleck alongside trio mates Jack DeJohnette, and (you guessed it!), Ron Carter. Check out this great video with Ron and McCoy playing "You Stepped Out of a Dream":

Here's the trailer to the new CD/DVD by McCOy Tyner to be released on September 23:

Monday, September 8, 2008

SADAO WATANABE, 10:30pm set

Bye Bye Babe
Ride On
I'm Old Fashioned
Early Spring
Deep In A Dream
Call Me
Waiting Song
Chega De Saudade
Karibu-Orange Express
Manhattan Paulista
Wind & Trees
Manha Carnaval


Sadao Watanabe returns to the United States for the first time in 12 years with an east coast tour and a one night only performance at the Blue Note. Below is the set list for tonight's show:

Set 1:
Plum Island
See What Happens
You Better Go Now
The Shadow Of Your Smile
Life Is All Like That
Seventh High
Karibu-Orange Express
Tokyo Dating
One More Time
My Foolish Heart
The Song Is You

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Earl Klugh and his band played an extraordinary set on Wednesday. For those of you who didn't get a chance to come and hear him yet and would like to know what to expect later this week, the set list is below:

1. Before You Go
2. Living Inside Your Love
3. Mobimientos Del Alba
4. Driftin'
5. Bye Ya
6. Canadian Sunset
7. Vonetta
8. Last Song
9. Take It From The Top
10. Night Walk
11. Dr. Macumba

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Earl Klugh is currently residing at The Blue Note, performing August 5-10th at 8:00PM and 10:30PM nightly. Klugh recently released his new album "The Spice of Life" late April on Koch Records, his first full-scale album production after a 9 year hiatus. Even after all of this time, his single "Driftin" quickly reached #1 on the Smooth Jazz Radio charts.

Last night before he went on, the back office was treated to a quick private show when Earl approached us and asked if he could warm up in the office. Reclining back with his eyes almost closed, Klugh strolled softly along the neck of his classical guitar, walking a bass line while soloing over "All The Things You Are," "It Could Happen To You" and other standards. He was as effortless playing the jazz standards as he is playing his own brand of contemporary jazz that has made him a household name. In other words, Klugh is a monster player in any musical situation. Needless to say, the office was pretty excited to work amidst such beautiful music!


In light of Earl Klugh's residency this week at The Blue Note, this Blast From The Past features Django Reinhardt, one of Europe's first jazz musicians and one of the worlds most renowned jazz guitarists.


Monday, August 4, 2008

RANDY BRECKER TALKS ABOUT HIS ROLE IN THE LATIN SIDE OF HERBIE HANCOCK, AUGUST 12-17 featuring Conrad Herwig and sp. guest Eddie Palmieri

Jazz Radio WJJZ 97.5 in Philadelphia came to the Blue Note this weekend to record their show with host Gerald Veasley, who also happens to be the bassist from last week's show "Metro." Here, he is interviewing trumpeter Randy Brecker and guitarist Chuck Loeb. Many topics were discussed during the interview, including their musical children and upcoming albums.

Randy Brecker will be returning to the Blue Note from August 12-17 as a special guest with The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock band featuring Conrad Herwig and special guest Eddie Palmieri. Here he talks about his role in the upcoming gig. To see more of this interview and more behind the scenes footage from the Blue Note, subscribe to the BlueNoteBlogger channel here: SUBSCRIBE TO THE BLUE NOTE's YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jazz Legend Johnny Griffin Passes Away

Johnny Griffin, a tenor saxophonist from Chicago whose speed, control and harmonic acuity made him one of the most talented American jazz musicians of his generation yet who spent most of his career in Europe, died Friday at his home in Availles-Limouzine, a village in France. He was 80 and had lived there for 24 years.
Steve Berman/The New York Times

Johnny Griffin at the Blue Note in New York in 1997.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Miriam, who did not give a cause. He played his last concert on Monday in Hyères, France.

Mr. Griffin’s modest height earned him the nickname the Little Giant; his speed in bebop improvising marked him as the Fastest Gun in the West; a group he led with his fellow saxophonist Eddie (Lockjaw) Davis was informally called the Tough Tenor band, a designation that was eventually applied to a whole school of hard-bop tenor players. And in general, Mr. Griffin suffered from categorization.

In the early 1960s, embittered by the critical acceptance of free jazz, he stayed true to his identity as a bebopper. Feeling that the American marketplace had no use for him (at a time when he was also having marital and tax troubles), he left for Europe, where he became a celebrated jazz elder.

“It’s not like I’m looking to prove anything anymore,” he said in a 1993 interview. “At this age, what can I prove? I’m concentrating more on the beauty in the music, the humanity.”

Indeed, Mr. Griffin’s work in the 1990s, with an American quartet that stayed constant whenever he revisited his home country to perform or record, had a new sound, mellower and sweeter than in his younger days.

Johnny Griffin was born in Chicago on April 24, 1928, and grew up on the South Side. He attended DuSable High School, where he was taught by the famed high school band instructor Capt. Walter Dyett, whose other students included the singers Nat (King) Cole and Dinah Washington and the saxophonists Gene Ammons and Von Freeman.

Mr. Griffin’s career started in a hurry: at age 12, attending his grammar school graduation dance at the Parkway Ballroom in Chicago, he saw Ammons play in King Kolax’s big band and decided what his instrument would be. By 14 he was playing alto saxophone in a variety of situations, including a group called the Baby Band with schoolmates, and occasionally with the blues guitarist and singer T-Bone Walker. At 18, three days after his high school graduation, Mr. Griffin left Chicago to join Lionel Hampton’s big band, where he switched from alto to tenor. From then until 1951 he was based in New York City but mostly on the road.

By 1947 he was touring with the rhythm-and-blues band of the trumpeter Joe Morris, a fellow Chicagoan, with whom he made the first recordings for the Atlantic label. He entered the United States Army in 1951; stationed in Hawaii, he played in an Army band.

Mr. Griffin was of an impressionable age when Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie became forces in jazz. He heard them both with Billy Eckstine’s band in 1945 and, having first internalized the more balladlike saxophone sound earlier popularized by Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster, became entranced by the lightning-fast phrasing of bebop, as the new music of Parker and Gillespie was known. In general his style remained brisk but relaxed, his bebop playing salted with blues tonality.

Beyond the 1960s his skill and his musical eccentricity continued to deepen, and in later years he could play odd, asymmetrical phrases, bulging with blues honking and then tapering off into state-of-the-art bebop, filled with passing chords.

In the late 1940s he befriended the pianists Elmo Hope, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk; he called these friendships his “postgraduate education.” After his Army service he went back to Chicago, where he worked with Monk for the first time, a job that altered his career. He became interested in Monk’s brightly melodic style of composition, and he ended up as a regular member of Monk’s quartet in New York in 1958. In 1967 he toured Europe with a Monk octet.

Mr. Griffin joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers for a short stint in 1957. The following year he began recording a series of albums as a leader for the Riverside label. On “Way Out!,” “The Little Giant” and other Riverside albums, his rampaging energy got its moment in the sun on tunes like “Cherokee,” famous vehicles for testing a musician’s mettle.

A few years later he hooked up with Davis, a more blues-oriented tenor saxophonist, with whom he made a series of records that act as barometers of taste: listeners tend to find them either thrilling or filled with too many notes. The Griffin-Davis combination was a popular one, and the two men would sporadically reunite through the ’70s and ’80s.

Mr. Griffin left the United States in 1963, settling in Paris and recording mostly for European labels — sometimes with other American expatriates, like the drummer Kenny Clarke, and sometimes with European rhythm sections. In 1973 he moved to Bergambacht, the Netherlands. He moved to the Côte d’Azur with his second wife, Miriam, in 1980, and then in 1984 to Availles-Limouzine, near Poitiers in midwestern France, where he lived thereafter.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Griffin’s survivors include four children: his daughters Jo-Onna and Ingrid and a son, John Arnold Griffin, all of the New York City area, and another daughter, Cynthia Griffin of Bordeaux, France.

Mr. Griffin stayed true to the small-group bebop ideal with his American quartet, including the pianist Michael Weiss and the drummer Kenny Washington. The record he made with this group for the Antilles label in 1991, “The Cat,” was received warmly as a comeback.

Every April for many years, Mr. Griffin returned to Chicago to visit family and play during his birthday week at the Jazz Showcase. During those visits he usually also spent a week at the Village Vanguard in New York, before returning home to his quiet house in the country.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NEW McCoy Tyner CD/DVD TRAILER!!!! September 23 release

On September 23, 2008 McCoy Tyner will release a CD/DVD called GUITARS featuring a trio of Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette and special guests Bela Fleck, Derek Trucks, John Scofield, Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell. The DVD has multiple angle viewing capabilities. For more information please visit and

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Mawuse from Giant Step Productions had the following to say on her blog about Rachelle Ferrell's performance at the air-conditionless Blue Note (luckily, the AC was back on the next night...)

"Sunday night back in NYC I tried to get my culture game up by taking in Rachelle Ferrell at Blue Note. Blue Note is one of those institutions shrouded in New York legend but the performance was memorable because they had zero air conditioning. Or a fan. Or a window. But the heat ain't stop Rachelle no way and she performed a gaggle of jazz and pop songs until she was literally soaking. And I have never witnessed that level of vocal virtuosity. She would jump from a sharp, tinny falsetto to a cavernous, guttural bass note - in the same word. Can we get a summer blockbuster featuring Rachelle Ferrell dissolving amateurs with her vocal prowess?"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


This week's blast from the past features one of Ellington's most famous and popular songs in honor of the Orchestra's run this week at the club from July 1 - 6.

Monday, June 23, 2008

MAURICE BROWN EFFECT - At the Blue Note Tonight!

Young up and coming trumpeter Maurice Brown announces his Blue Note show:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Omar Sosa's Sextet offers a unique look at jazz, Cuban, and world music in general. They'll be at hte Blue Note all week and will record live for Half Note Records on June 12 and 13.


Cassandra Wilson released her latest CD on Blue Note Records titled "Loverly" as of this morning. Last night she celebrated the release at the Blue Note club to two sold-out audiences.

The tentative set-list went as follows:
1. Caravan
2. Sleeping Bee
3. St. James Infirmary
4. Loverly
5. Sweet Lorraine
6. Dust My Broom
7. Till There Was You

Cassandra Wilson

Pianist Jonathan Batiste

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Bo Diddley with Blue Note / Bensusan Restaurant Corp. Owner Danny Bensusan

Bo Diddley, one of the founding fathers of rock 'n' roll, died of heart failure yesterday at his home in Archer, Fla., according to his publicist. He was 79.

Mr. Diddley, whose signature bomp ba-bomp bomp bomp bomp beat influenced musicians from Buddy Holly and the Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen and U2, had suffered a heart attack last August, three months after being felled by a stroke during a performance in Iowa. He had returned to Florida, his home of 20 years, to rehabilitate.

Mr. Diddley cut a distinctive figure in music during a career that spanned more than a half-century with his ever-present black hat, horn-rimmed glasses, and rectangular guitar - originally rigged with junkyard clockworks and car parts to create a distorted and otherworldly tremolo sound that would be heard a decade later in the work of Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy.

Even though Mr. Diddley enjoyed only a handful of hits during a 40-year recording career, his impact on the evolution of rock music was vast.

"Bo Diddley is one of the seminal American guitarists and an architect of the rock 'n' roll sound," said Terry Stewart, president and chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. "His unique guitar work, indelible rhythms, inventive songwriting, and larger-than-life personality make him an immortal author of the American songbook."

Mr. Diddley, who bridged the blues and rock 'n' roll with a string of groundbreaking records in the 1950s, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (by the members of ZZ Top) in 1987 at the museum's second annual ceremony.

He received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards in 1996 and a similar honor at the Grammys in 1999.

But like other black, midcentury music innovators, Mr. Diddley said he received neither the credit he deserved from the press or the public, nor financial compensation for his recordings. He remained bitter for the rest of his life about what he viewed as the exploitation of early rock 'n' rollers by record companies, promoters, and publishers.

"Elvis was not first; I was the first son of a gun out here, me and Chuck Berry. And I'm very sick of the lie," Mr. Diddley said in a 2005 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. "You know, we are over that black-and-white crap, and that was all the reason Elvis got the appreciation that he did. I'm the dude that he copied, and I'm not even mentioned. . . . I've been out here for 50 years, man, and I haven't ever seen a royalty check."

Mr. Diddley performed tirelessly until last year, and his busy tour schedule brought him to the Boston area for countless shows, most recently at the Regattabar in 2006. Charlie Abel, the former co-owner and booking agent at Harpers Ferry in Allston, booked Mr. Diddley at least a dozen times during his 18 years at the club's helm, and the two became good friends.

"I would pick him up at the airport, and we would go over to Guitar Center before he even checked into the hotel," Abel said. "He liked to sit down and play a little bit, and, of course, he would gather a flock around him. Then we'd go out for dinner before the shows. His favorite was the Village Fish in Brookline. I brought him to a couple of fancy places, but he said: 'Charlie, I don't want that. I want some good fish and fries.' Bo was a down-to-earth guy."

He was born Ellas Otha Bates on Dec. 30, 1928, in McComb, Miss., and was brought up by his teenage mother's first cousin, Gussie McDaniel.

The boy who would become Bo moved to Chicago when he was 6 and discovered music at that city's Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, where he sang in the choir.

He soon took up violin and trombone and then the guitar at the age of 12, after hearing a John Lee Hooker record.

Mr. Diddley said that playing the violin influenced his muted-string, choke-neck style of rhythm guitar, an early forerunner of funk that can be heard on such songs as "Pretty Thing," according to his biography on the Hall of Fame website. "It's mixed up with spiritual, sanctified rhythms," Mr. Diddley explained, "and the feeling I have of making people [want to] shout."

His first band, the Hipsters, formed in high school and was often found busking on the city's street corners. Mr. Diddley landed his first regular gig at the 708 Club on Chicago's South Side in 1951. Four years later, he signed with the Checker label, a subsidiary of famed Chess Records, and released the first of several seminal singles: "Bo Diddley" on the A-side and "I'm a Man" on the B-side.

His influence was felt almost immediately. Holly borrowed the primal Bo Diddley beat for his 1957 classic, "Not Fade Away." In 1964, the Rolling Stones' cover of the song gave the band its first chart hit in the United Kingdom and was the Stones' debut single in the United States.

Among the other artists to co-opt Mr. Diddley's famous rhythm are Johnny Otis (1958's "Willie and the Hand Jive"), the Strangeloves (1965's "I Want Candy"), the Who (1968's "Magic Bus"), the Stooges (1969's "1969"), Springsteen (1975's "She's the One"), and U2 (1988's "Desire").

While Mr. Diddley's recorded output slowed over the years, he became familiar to a younger generation when he appeared in George Thorogood's 1982 video for "Bad to the Bone" and Nike's 1989 "Bo Knows" ad campaign, in which he commented on Bo Jackson's guitar-playing prowess: "He don't know Diddley."

"I never could figure out what it had to do with shoes, but it worked," Mr. Diddley told the Associated Press that year. "I got into a lot of new front rooms on the tube."

Mr. Diddley, who divorced his fourth wife several years ago, leaves four children, 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.


This is the story of Cassandra Wilson's latest record on Blue Note, "Loverly." She'll be here with a stellar band for one night only, June 9.

Monday, June 2, 2008


131 W. 3rd St., near Sixth Ave. (212-475-8592)—June 3-4: The vocalist Bilal, who was born Bilal Sayeed Oliver and was raised in Philadelphia by a Christian mother and an orthodox-Muslim father, has appeared on albums by Common, Erykah Badu, and other hip-hop musicians. Classically trained, he deftly combines streams of jazz, hip-hop, funk, and soul in his music; he’s as comfortable with falsetto and scatting as he is with laying down smooth raps. For this engagement, he’ll be backed by a small band that includes the jazz pianist Robert Glasper.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Here is the 10:30pm set list from Steve Tyrell's run at the Blue Note last week. In case you missed it, Tyrell played hits from his past records and 6 from his latest, "Back To Bacharach."

1) It All Depends On You
2) World On A String
3) Can't Get Started
4) Isn't It Romantic
5) Just In Time
6) I Get A Kick Out Of You
7) Nice 'N Easy
8) Concentrate On You
9) Under My Skin
10) Sunny Side
11) Simple Life
12) The Way You Look
13) This Guy's In Love
14) Walk On By
15) The Look Of Love
16) Close To You
17) House Is Not A Home
18) Raindrops
19) I Say A Little Prayer
20) Always On My Mind

Monday, May 19, 2008


Latin Side of Wayne Shorter will be released tomorrow, May 20, on Half Note Records.

The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter
Conrad Herwig | Half Note Records (2008)
By Jeff Stockton

Luis Perdomo is the regular pianist in Conrad Herwig's septet. He delivers a sterling, elegant solo on “Ping Pong,” the opening cut on The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter, recorded live at the Blue Note in New York. He anchors the first five songs with such skill that at the end of “This Is for Albert,” Herwig singles him out for the audience's applause. Unfortunately, it's to say goodbye. When salsa legend Eddie Palmieri takes over on piano, the concert is sent into orbit. Perdomo never stood a chance.

”Adam's Apple” may not be Shorter's greatest composition, but Palmieri makes a convincing case with syncopated montuno vamps that drive drummer Robby Ameen's funky backbeat and inspire baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber's sly comments and robust soloing. Palmieri taps into “Masquelero”'s heart of darkness and Herwig's tone on trombone is elusive and introverted, before trumpeter Brian Lynch takes a note-bending solo that slides itself into the piano's rhythms like mortar. Herwig and Lynch's simpatico playing is the highlight of “Footprints,” each of them winding similarly smooth and uncluttered solos around Pedro Martinez' congas.

This is the third installment in Herwig's Latin Side series (following interpretations of Coltrane and Miles) and features silky virtuosic musicianship applied to intricate, intelligent, original compositions. Shorter's tunes are well-known and highly regarded as being flexible enough to suit a variety of instrumental lineups. Since he's gathered his own multi-horn groups in the past, the sound of these arrangements doesn't stray too far from his initial conceptions. But if you know a person who thinks jazz is difficult to get, lacks melody, or you can't dance to it, this is a CD that will change their mind.

Track listing: Ping Pong; Tom Thumb; El Gaucho; Night Dreamer; This Is for Albert; Adam's Apple; Masqualero; Footprints.

Personnel: Conrad Herwig: trombone; Brian Lynch: trumpet; Ronnie Cuber: baritone sax; Eddie Palmieri, Luis Perdomo: piano; Ruben Rodriguez: bass; Robby Ameen: drums; Pedro Martinez: congas.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This week's blast from the past highlights a drummer whose influence reaches far beyond the members of his bands (who talk about him here in this two-part documentary).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Jazziz writer Larry Blumenfeld profiled Lionel Loueke, who will be playing here through Thursday, in today's Personal Jounral section of the Wall St. Journal.

For One Guitarist, Jazz Is an African Dialect
May 14, 2008; Page D7

If a film were made of guitarist Lionel Loueke's career to date, the master shot sequence would be his 2001 audition for admission into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, then housed at the University of Southern California. "He started playing rhythmic patterns and vocalizing off a tune's melody," recalled trumpeter Terence Blanchard, the program's artistic director, "and we were floored." Pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter were also members of the audition jury. "I turned to Wayne, just as he was turning to me," Mr. Hancock said. "We didn't even have to say it; we just knew: We're going to hear more from this guy."

And we have. By the time Mr. Loueke, who is 35, arrived at Joe's Pub in Manhattan in March to celebrate the release of his new CD, "Karibu" (Blue Note), he'd earned a reputation as one to watch. (He's headlining again in Manhattan, at the Blue Note, tonight and Thursday.) Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Hancock were so enamored with Mr. Loueke at the institute that they both quickly recruited him for their own endeavors. The guitarist recently concluded an impressive six-year stint in Mr. Blanchard's band. He helped create the subtle textures of the Grammy-winning album "The Joni Letters" (Verve) for Mr. Hancock, with whom he regularly tours; he'll perform with Mr. Hancock at Carnegie Hall in a June 23 JVC Jazz Festival concert. And Mr. Loueke is a sought-after collaborator for up-and-coming musicians, including vocalist Gretchen Parlato and drummer Francisco Mela.

Yet at Joe's Pub, the spotlight was squarely on Mr. Loueke's well-developed trio and the duality within his singular style. Singing soft wordless melodies, his tongue clicking out rhythms, his long fingers sketching elegant single-note patterns then stopping to sound unexpected chords, Mr. Loueke had the crowd entranced. Born and raised in the West African country of Benin, he evoked connection to a line of African troubadours, from traditional griots to modern pop stars, weaving narrative from threads of melody and groove. Yet he seemed just as much a jazz bandleader, negotiating tricky harmonic and rhythmic terrain, balancing consistent authority with sensitivity to the moment.

In jazz, why shouldn't these roles meld? Mr. Loueke's trio includes drummer Ferenc Nemeth, who was born in Hungary, and bassist Massimo Biolcati, who grew up in Sweden and Italy; together, the three press the issue of jazz's globalization in general. And yet all are, notably, products of the best American institutions devoted to jazz education. Increasingly, musicians who have mastered jazz technique and absorbed its legacy are telling stories that span oceans.

Mr. Loueke's story begins in the city of Cotonou, in Benin, a small nation of roughly six million people tucked between Nigeria and Togo. His father was a mathematics professor; his mother, a high-school teacher. As a child, he soaked in everyday Beninese songs, with vocals accompanied by beats on hand drums and an occasional sanza (thumb-piano made from a gourd and metal strips). At age 17, he began playing a beat-up, borrowed guitar -- a far cry from the Godin electric with built-in synthesizer he now favors, or the hollow-body Yamaha on which he often taps out percussion.

When a friend brought him a George Benson album, he developed an ear for jazz. He left home on a scholarship to attend the National Institute of Art in Ivory Coast, where he learned to read and notate music, and, following that, the American School of Modern Music in Paris, whose jazz-savvy faculty is drawn largely from Boston's Berklee College of Music. Mr. Loueke earned a scholarship to Berklee, where he first encountered his future trio mates, Messrs. Biolcati and Nemeth.

"He came like a lightning bolt into Berklee and shocked everybody," recalled Mr. Nemeth. "The rest of us had learned music mostly the academic way. His path was more creative. He'd taught himself first. I felt like he was showing us the real way to learn." The three musicians auditioned separately for the Monk Institute; all were accepted into the two-year program. While there, they began practicing intensely together -- at first playing standards, then Mr. Loueke's compositions.

As a musician, Mr. Loueke is endlessly challenging, even reinventing, himself. In college, he began favoring the odd meters -- 11 beats, or even 17, to a measure -- that show up in most of the new CD's songs. At the Monk Institute, he studied classical acoustic guitar and, forgoing his pick, decided to play with his fingers. Four years ago, he devised a new tuning scheme for his instrument, yielding improvisational lines that often suggest the kora, a 21-string African harp, and close-set intervals that sound more like a piano than a guitar.

Mr. Loueke's music is unmistakably jazz, in that it is harmonically sophisticated and flexibly swinging, informed by bebop and blues repertoire, and highly adaptive to each player's improvisations. Yet even in odd, extended meters, the music never sounds overly cerebral or complicated. Its rhythms are based on overlapping cycles, as in African music, which turn in easeful fashion. And even Mr. Loueke's furthest-flung solos are staked to simple melodies that float through nearly all his music, recalling, he says, the songs he heard as a child.

Mr. Loueke's previous recording, "Virgin Forest" (Obliqsound), combined trio studio sessions with recordings of percussionists he'd made in Benin. The new CD blends influences more organically. Mr. Loueke set Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" to a Central African groove; he inserted paper beneath his instrument's strings for one section of John Coltrane's "Naima" to mimic a thumb-piano. Mr. Hancock and Mr. Shorter play on two tracks each; one, "Light Dark," demonstrates the guitarist's comfortable role within one of jazz's closest and most productive dialogues. But the album's truest focus is the trio's interplay, especially the connection between Mr. Nemeth's light-touched rhythms and Mr. Loueke's delicately stated lines.

Is it coincidence that all three musicians were born outside the U.S., or is that a key ingredient?

"If you asked me that question years ago, I would have said coincidence," said Mr. Loueke. "But today, I don't believe in coincidences. What brought us here was jazz improvisation and harmony. Yet we didn't forget our backgrounds."

"Maybe the answer is not musical," said Mr. Biolcati, "in that, as foreigners, we all found each other by being outsiders."

"Everyone talks about Lionel in terms of the world-music aspect he brings to jazz," said Mr. Blanchard. "But what really makes him special is that he does something different every night and plays from an honest place."

By now, Mr. Loueke must be considered a jazz insider, extending the music's legacy through his own personal story. "When I was a kid, I was happy just to make a collection of Blue Note albums," he said. "But, a world away, I never imagined I'd be part of the collection one day."

Mr. Blumenfeld, an editor-at-large for Jazziz magazine, writes on jazz for the Journal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


With a stamp of approval from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, both of whom appear on Lionel Loueke's new release for Blue Note Records entitled Karibu, it's safe to say that his career is destined for success.

Monday, May 12, 2008


This summer, the Blue Note will put on a Summer Big Band Festival that features three very different and prominent big bands from June 24 - July 13:

Dizzy Gillespie™ All-Star Big Band (June 24-19) featuring James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove, Claudio Roditi, Antonio Hart, Greg Gisbert, Steve Davis, Cyrus Chestnut, John Lee, Lewis Nash and vocalist Roberta Gambarini

Duke Ellington Orchestra (July 1-6)

Charles Tolliver Big Band (July 8-13): Half Note Records Live Recording (Tolliver's Big Band was nominated for a Grammy Last year for their Blue Note Records CD "With Love").


Maya Azucena has just returned from East/South Asian tour that included stops in China, Singapore, Myanmar/Burma, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. A "foot cam" below reveals the interaction between the audience in Shenyang.


At 77, Jamal Sounds Younger Than Ever
By WILL FRIEDWALD | May 9, 2008

If you think of a jazz performance as a meal, it makes you wonder why most musicians serve dessert before the entrée. Considering that most listeners enjoy hearing the melody more than any other part of a particular song, why does the tune so often rush by at the very beginning, like an afterthought — or, more precisely, a before-thought?

The pianist Ahmad Jamal, who is appearing this week at the Blue Note, and whose new album, “It’s Magic” (Dreyfus), will be released next month, has some interesting answers. If the melody is the dessert, then he chooses not to serve it in a distinctly defined course, but rather in small, tempting bites throughout the meal. Here’s some steak for you, and wait, just a taste of ice cream.

That’s the way Mr. Jamal, a 77-year-old Pittsburgh native, played “Wild Is the Wind” at the late show on Tuesday night (as on the new album). First, he begins with polyrhythmic background — part rhumba, part calypso — reinforced by the percussionist Manolo Badrena, who is armed with a Pan-American-African percussion kit that I’m glad I don’t have to get through customs. Mr. Jamal plays a bit of piano improvisation, then lays a little taste of the tune on us, then a brief bit of Idris Muhammad’s drums, then more melody, then some bass from James Cammack, and so on. As they play, the leader stands up and turns away from his piano, as if to project his star power onto his colleagues for their moments in the spotlight.

When he plays a standard, Mr. Jamal is brilliant at the old trick of delaying recognition of the melody, a simple enough move to heighten the drama. Before we’re certain that we’re hearing “Wild Is the Wind,” he takes a side trip through the “Sesame Street” theme song, rendering it in a way that would scare the feathers off of Big Bird. He goes to an even further extreme with “The Way You Look Tonight,” not allowing us to explicitly hear the melody until the coda — thus dishing out the dessert at the end of the dinner, where it belongs.

Mr. Jamal is such a crowd-pleaser — the critic Martin Williams once famously accused him of “playing the audience” rather than the piano — that it’s hard to imagine he spent the early part of his career known only to other musicians. Although he recorded as early as 1951 (tracks now available on “The Legendary Okeh & Epic Sessions”), his ideas were widely disseminated by Miles Davis long before Mr. Jamal was well-known outside of Chicago. Born Frederick Jones in 1930, Mr. Jamal was one of a legion of heavyweight jazz pianists to rise out of Pittsburgh. He assumed the name Ahmad Jamal (which means “highly praised beauty” in Arabic) as part of his conversion to Islam in the early 1950s.

Mr. Jamal’s ideas regarding the use of melody — his contrast between a simple, clearly delineated tune and complex, modern jazz chords, as well as between sound and silence, rhythm, and even repertoire — were the major influence on Davis’s classic quintet with John Coltrane in the late ’50s. The trumpeter not only employed Mr. Jamal’s concepts, but borrowed arrangements outright; “I Don’t Want To Be Kissed” and the pianist’s original “New Rhumba,” from Mr. Jamal’s “Chamber Music of the New Jazz,” were essentially transcribed into big-band format for “Miles Ahead” (1955).

Yet, ironically, by the time Mr. Jamal finally landed his breakthrough hit, “Poinciana,” in 1958, Davis was already on his way to something new, something cool, and something kind of blue. Coltrane also first heard “Pavanne” on one of Mr. Jamal’s albums, which inspired him to transmute that Morton Gould tune into his own classic composition “Impressions.”

But 50 years later, Mr. Jamal no longer sounds like he did on his recordings of that era; rather, he is a much more assertive player today. His dynamics, much like Count Basie’s, are wondrous to behold, making his Steinway live up to its full formal name, a pianoforte. He shows it’s possible to swing and bop with considerable energy without drowning the listener in a torrent of notes; his ballads, mostly rendered only with Mr. Cammack, are models of economy, particularly Arthur Schwartz’s “Then I’ll Be Tired of You.” Mr. Jamal establishes a serene mood, then disrupts his own tranquility with big, fortissimo distortions.

At the Blue Note, most of the faster numbers utilized Island-centric beats, whereas most of the slower tunes were classic ballads. Some of Mr. Jamal’s own tunes, such as the clave-driven “Fitnah” which closed the late set on Tuesday (as well as the album), are pure rhythm and special effects without much of a tune, but he can also write a gorgeous melody. “Whisperings” is lightly reminiscent of Jimmy Rowles’s “The Peacocks” (and opens with a quote from “Lucky To Be Me”), but is a strong original melody that was heard with a worthy lyric on the 2003 album “In Search Of.” If he hadn’t introduced it as an original, one might have mistaken it for a work by one of the Old Masters.

Mr. Jamal is such a vital and contemporary player that, even at 77, he seems to have come after, rather than before, nearly everyone playing the piano today.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


This week's blast from the past is appropriate - the man in the video below is here all week with his trio. He looks almost as young today as he did in 1959. Not much more to say - just enjoy it!

Monday, April 21, 2008


Last week, Irvin Mayfield performed at the Blue Note with his quintet, garnering praise for both his abilities on the trumpet and his brand new record, "Love Songs" with Ellis Marsalis. The first picture is of Mayfield, and the second, his drummer Jaz Sawyer. Both made a recording for Half Note Records together titled "20/20" almost a decade ago.


Half Note Records' upcoming recording, "The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter featuring Conrad Herwig & Friends," will be released on May 27 and 28 at the Blue Note. For more information on that show and others coming up at the club, please visit :

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


If you haven't seen this, you're not going to believe it - Pops and Diz, together, singing and playing their trumpets! Check it out...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Interesting New York Sun Article on Irvin Mayfield's Trumpet...

Blow, but Don't Touch, That Horn

Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 10, 2008

Sergeant Ernest Gabriel III, of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Department, has what is arguably the best beat in all of policedom. His duty is to guard the bejeweled Elysian Trumpet, a handcrafted, brushed-gold instrument that is played by jazz musician Irvin Mayfield Jr.

The trumpet — which has been blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, inspected by President Bush, and insured by Lloyd's of London — is a traveling musical symbol of New Orleans. According to the terms of its creation and maintenance (the latter of which is paid for by a group of citizens), an armed guard must accompany the trumpet at all times. So when the Irvin Mayfield Quintet played the Blue Note last night, Mr. Gabriel was prominently in attendance.

Wearing a black collared shirt, black pants, a handgun, and a palm-size star-shaped badge on his belt, he strolled jovially through the seated crowd. The trumpet has not seen serious threats, according to Mr. Gabriel, who comes from a long line of New Orleans musicians. "Mostly, people want to touch it. It cannot be Truth be told, the compact Mr. Mayfield, 30, is strapping enough to fend off any would-be trumpet molesters. With his shaved head, dramatic facial expressions, and muscles bursting out of his black T-shirt, he could easily be a male model. If he weren't a thoroughly talented musician, that is.

Mr. Mayfield, the artistic director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the cultural ambassador of New Orleans, is also the artistic warden of the Elysian trumpet. (The spiritual warden is the Very Reverend David Allard du-Plantier, the dean of Christ Church Cathedral.) He is personally connected to the instrument because it was commissioned in memory of the victims of Hurricane Katrina — including his father, Irvin Mayfield Sr., whose body was found on Elysian Fields Avenue in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans.

Built by David Monette, a noted trumpet designer based in Portland, Ore., and a team of artisans, the horn is loaded with details that honor the music and spirit of the Crescent City. The outer bell has cutout designs of Elysian Field lilies. Near the mouthpiece is a miniature replica of a stretch of the 30-mile-long Mississippi River — inlaid with Sleeping Beauty turquoise — with a faceted ruby at the point where New Orleans stands along the river. Engravings and saw-piercings celebrate Mardi Gras, local cuisine, and famous musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Mahalia Jackson.

Portland jewelry designer Tami Dean designed the engravings on the valve casings to evoke French Quarter wrought iron. At the end of the valves are delicately inset gemstones in Mardi Gras colors. The tops of the finger buttons are inlaid with semiprecious stones. When Mr. Mayfield plays the trumpet onstage facing the audience, these tiny details are not easily apparent. But when he turns to the side, it is clear that the panels (or braces) between the instrument's curved tubes are decorated with sharp, wave-like shapes that suggest the violent winds of the hurricane. The elaborate portions are also apparent when Mr. Mayfield stops playing and talks to the audience, while holding the trumpet so that the horn is pointing to the floor. This shows off the colorful finger-buttons and some of the larger design elements.

During the nearly two-hour set, Mr. Mayfield played only the Elysian trumpet. For all its decoration, the instrument's sound is standard, with only the talent of the player to make it exceptional. Mr. Mayfield and his band — trombonist Vince Gardner, pianist John Chin, bassist Neal Caire, and drum player Jaz Sawyer — performed a number of songs from Mr. Mayfield's new album "Love Songs, Ballads and Standards." The album is the first to be produced by Basin Street Records since its studio was destroyed by Katrina.

All the while during the show, the armed Sergeant Gabriel kept watch. Though it might delight some cops to spend every night walking such a relatively enjoyable beat, Sergeant Gabriel says it's only professional: "It's a job."

Sunday, April 6, 2008


And here is the real David Helfgott performing at a wedding as a present for a friend, followed by a performance at his home of Rachmaninoff op 32 number 5 and op 32 number 12. He'll be at the Blue Note tomorrow night. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

David Helfgott portrayal in the movie "SHINE"

David Helfgott was portrayed in the 1996 film "Shine" by Geoffrey Rush, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Here is a clip from the movie in case you haven't seen it! He'll be at the Blue Note for one night only on April 7, 2008.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


The 80s Never Sounded So Good

April 4, 2008

This week, the New York clubs are dominated by a "Subway Series"-style battle of the generations: It's the 70-somethings versus the 80-somethings. At Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, the co-headliners are the 79-year-old singer Ernestine Anderson and the 73-year-old tenor saxophonist Houston Person, while downtown at the Blue Note, the 86-year-old singer-songwriter Jon Hendricks is sharing the stage with one of the few surviving first-generation beboppers, the equally brilliant saxophonist and entertainer James Moody, 83. The program is officially billed as "James Moody Quartet with special guest Jon Hendricks," but during the late show on Tuesday night, the two octogenarians split the set evenly, doing four numbers each.

The program was even more symmetrical than that, because each star favored the four B's: a bopper, a ballad, a bossa, and a blues. Mr. Moody started with a stomping "Eternal Triangle" (a classic "I Got Rhythm" variant by his contemporary, Sonny Stitt) before effortlessly launching into a moving and tender reading of "Body and Soul," with a dramatic opening cadenza; here, bassist Todd Coolman (generally introduced by Mr. Moody as "Cool Man") heavily quoted from the leader's legendary solo on "I'm in the Mood for Love." Mr. Moody then switched to flute for Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Wave," on which it was pianist Renee Rosnes's turn to quote (from "Love for Sale").

Mr. Moody wound up his portion of the set with Charlie Parker's famous blues "Au Private," which he recorded on his 1966 album, "Moody and the Brass Figures," after first calling the expert trombonist Steve Davis to share the stage with him. The saxophonist then introduced his guest vocalist by telling us that Mr. Hendricks is "wise beyond his years" — considerable (and accurate) praise, considering that he is 86. As a representative sample of his wisdom, the singer's first move was to invite Messrs. Moody and Davis to remain onstage and keep the blues mood going with "Jimmy's Blues." The classic 12-bar tune is rocking and funny enough as Jimmy Rushing originally sang it with Count Basie, but with additional erotically comic verses by Mr. Hendricks, it's even more of a crowd pleaser.

Back in the 1980s and '90s — and for at least 30 years before that — Mr. Hendricks was omnipresent on the New York jazz scene: If he wasn't headlining or filling in when a scheduled act was ailing (as he did at least once for the late Joe Williams at the Blue Note), Mr. Hendricks was usually sitting in, or sometimes just kibitzing from the sidelines. Then, in September 2001, right around Mr. Hendricks's 80th birthday, he watched as terrorists nearly destroyed Battery Park City and the apartment he keeps there. He was already spending a lot of time at the University of Toledo, but seeing his neighborhood attacked undoubtedly reinforced his decision to concentrate on teaching and leading his 13-voice choir in his native Ohio. We never quite took it for granted that Mr. Hendricks would always be on the scene, but now that he only works occasionally in New York, his appearances here are, more than ever, cause for celebration.

On Tuesday, Mr. Hendricks's Brazilian number ("Chega de Saudade") and his bop number (Thelonious Monk's "Evidence") both pivoted around instrumental impressions. On the first, he transformed a drumstick into a flute (following Mr. Moody's example of using that horn for Jobim) with a whistling solo; on the second, he played both a pantomime tenor sax (at one point adjusting his imaginary ligature in between bleats and blasts) and bass. Mr. Hendricks remains one of the few scat singers to whom I can listen and enjoy for durations of a whole chorus or longer; he's no Paul Robeson (or Billy Eckstine) vocally, but he has a strong harmonic sense and even more imagination. Mr. Hendricks then introduced his next song as a request from … himself. This was his favorite ballad of recent years, "The September of My Years" (written by Cahn & Van Heusen for Frank Sinatra on the album of that same title), on which the extroverted bopper suddenly became intimate, personal, and vulnerable. Again, he never had Sinatra's chops, but, like the Chairman, he transformed the song into a microcosm of his decades of experience. In addition to teaching and conducting in Toledo, Mr. Hendricks is also said to be working on his autobiography; I doubt that it could be more revealing than his performance of this song.

Mr. Moody then reclaimed the stage and played a chaser of "St. Thomas." The closest thing to a disappointment during the set was that the two principals did not get together for a spectacular finale: I was waiting for "Everybody's Boppin'" or "Moody's Mood." But then, though the set seemed like it had just started, it was actually midnight; the two stars had been going for a full 90 minutes, and considering that they brought nearly 170 years of experience to the stage, that ain't too bad.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mambo King Cachao Passes Away, March 22

The inventor of the Mambo, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, who performed at the Blue Note numerous times in the past five years died on March 22 at the age of 89 as a result of kidney failure. If you have ever seen Cacaho, he looked like a kid on stage, and it seemed impossible that someone of his age could play with the energy he displayed. He will be missed.

Israel "Cachao" Lopez - 1918 - 2008

Delirium Blues Project

CD Release on March 25 - more info at this website:


Published: March 8, 2008

The jazz singer Diane Schuur has a stage personality that brings to mind the kind of garrulous partygoer whose slightly hysterical laughter can be heard pealing above the din. She is a blowzy next-door neighbor in frayed housedress gulping coffee while dispensing back-fence gossip with a cheery gusto. When she gets excited during a song, she flutters her hands and snaps her fingers. On Thursday evening at the Blue Note, where she began a four-night engagement, she referred to people in the audience as “dear” and “sweetheart.”

Vocally, this translates into an approach that comes at you like an assault of purposeful bonhomie. When some people say “good morning,” wearing a big broad grin, you feel pressured to respond in the same tone, no matter your mood.

Although Ms. Schuur is a considerably less flamboyant stylist than she used to be, her performances are still more about flexing her instrument than anything else. Her voice is impressive in its size, range and brightness. A song can suddenly fly up an octave into little-girl squeals, then make a swan dive into the murky depths. She uses her twirling vibrato as rhythmic punctuation. After drawing out a note, she dispenses that vibrato like the cherry on a sundae.

On Thursday Ms. Schuur, accompanied by Randy Porter on piano, Scott Steed on bass, Dan Balmer on guitar and Reggie Jackson on drums, sang 12 songs, seven of them from her newest album, “Some Other Time” (Concord). They included two Berlins, two Gershwins and a Porter.
For all her knowledge of songs, Ms. Schuur isn’t much interested in lyrics. How phrases are divided and words are emphasized is determined by her rhythmic concept of a song, not by any message she wants to impart. The word “the” can be the most dramatically stated moment in an interpretation. Singing “Turn up the quiet” in “Love Dance,” she turned up the volume.

“It Don’t Mean a Thing (if It Ain’t Got That Swing),” the show’s strongest performance, found Ms. Schuur at the piano. For the first time in the set, her mannerisms synchronized with her band as she scatted percussively, sang in unison with the guitar and bass, then traded call-and-response riffs with the players. Mr. Jackson’s extended drum solo grounded this Ellington standard in pure rhythm. It swung hard.

Diane Schuur is appearing through Sunday at the Blue Note, 131 West Third Street, Greenwich Village; (212) 475-8592,

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross

In honor of Jon Hendricks' return to the Blue Note with James Moody next week, this week's Blast From The Past is a clip from the songbook of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Down in Front


Michael McDonald: Mystery White Boy

Live at the irony apocalypse

by Rob Harvilla

March 11th, 2008 12:00 AM

Michael McDonald was the Akon of the '80s. Ubiquitous, inescapable. The consummate guest star, backing vocalist, and duet partner, trading lines with everyone from James Ingram to Patti LaBelle to Kenny Loggins to his own sister. Like top-shelf vodka, his bubbly, mush-mouthed yodel (wherein murdered consonants ascend to heaven and are awarded 72 virgin vowels) enhanced and intoxicated whatever you mixed it with. Consider Steely Dan's "Peg," his note-perfect bleats finely chopped like pristine lines of cocaine, a sublimely OCD mingling of the perfectionist and the populist, the alien and the instantly familiar. Only one fate can befall a voice so memorable, so distinct: Nowadays, he's a bit of a joke.

A joke Mike's in on, though, at least to an extent. In 2008, he has evolved into a slightly less athletic Chuck Norris. A kitschy pop-culture punchline masterfully wielded by The 40-Year-Old Virgin ("Ya mo burn this place to the ground"), The Family Guy ("Faaaaart!"), the brilliant Internet serial Yacht Rock ("California vagina sailors"), and even power-pop stars the New Pornographers, who held a YouTube contest in which fans submitted videos of themselves singing NP tunes in the inimitable Michael McDonald style. (Some guy with an atrocious beard won for warbling "It's Only Divine Right.") The Family Guy joke is most instructive: Mike is hired to sing backup vocals to everything anyone says, because it all just sounds better—sweeter, smoother, more soulful—when issued from his lips. Not a bad rep. It wouldn't be quite so bothersome, though, if these days he didn't mostly sing old Motown songs.

We're live last Wednesday night at the Blue Note for the sold-out Michael McDonald show. That is not a typo. Aside from the sax guy briefly evoking A Love Supreme during the intro vamp to "I Keep Forgettin' " (that'll probably cost you a few virgins, pal), this is no hackneyed jazz crossover plea—before a euphoric crowd, Mike instead grinds through 90 minutes unifying the two halves of his estimable career: the cheerily smooth r&b on which he built his fortune ("What a Fool Believes" triggers mass hysteria), and the cheerily smooth renditions of classic, often not traditionally smooth r&b songs that've dominated his last several albums (a superfluous take on "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" triggers significantly less hysteria).

His new Soul Speak, third in a trilogy that includes the instructively titled Motown and Motown Two, tosses in a couple of flaccid originals and a few bewildering tributes from farther afield: Mike's take on "Hallelujah" can't match the profundity of that American Idol dude's version, let alone Jeff Buckley's. His backing band tonight hails from the to-save-the-song-we-must-destroy-it Vietnam school, unnecessarily bombastic solos and all. For protection and companionship, I have brought along three martini-swilling associates, and we struggle mightily as to the degree of irony with which we are enjoying ourselves, or not. Nearby Blue Note patrons are visibly alarmed by our (relative) youth; that not every last person in the joint is bone-white befuddles us in turn.

It's complicated.

Anyway, "Oh, you're gonna pay, guitar!" howls one of my martini-swilling associates as the lead guitarist's face contorts violently while searching for that perfect, sweet, climactic note. For convenience's sake, we assign every side player to a bygone TV star: Beau Bridges on guitar, Wilford Brimley on sax, etc. Mike's drummer is evidently nicknamed "Baby Girl." As for the man himself, he remains middle management incarnate, his hair and Brillo-pad goatee a resplendent shock of white; the spit starts flying by the middle of the towering opener "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," and the sweat is pouring freely just a few songs later, coating his cheeks to almost strategically suggest that Mike is crying. He pounds his electric keyboard and yodels his ass off. "I know what's good for you, baby," he violently coos, and you get to thinking that maybe he does.

You watch a guy like this close his set with a triumphant double-shot of Stevie Wonder songs, and you can't help but think it: Pat Boone. But does the elated throng here actually prefer Mike's version of, say, "Walk On By" to the original? Doubt it. Hope not. He avoids any outright debacles, though, and his mercifully solo reading of "You Don't Know Me"—the Ray Charles version—is the killer tonight, a Lifetime movie tearjerker that earns its pathos, even if it's borrowed. My martini-swilling associates are right to point out the grueling irony of covering "Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing," but ah, screw it. The oldies album is the official baby-boomer exit strategy. It's not his fault. And it's heartening that "Takin' It to the Streets," from Mike's original meal ticket, the mighty Doobie Brothers, inspires the most crowd rapture tonight, folks leaping to their feet and clapping awkwardly but endearingly as our hero's sweat pours forth. He's got his own canon, thank you very much.

But Michael McDonald remains a truly confusing notion in 2008, an ironic mustache of a man, alternately appalling and appealing, but bewildering throughout. Before he rips into "What's Goin' On," Mike deigns to make a political statement that I, in my vertiginous state, completely misread. He announces that we stand at the threshold of what could be a great time, and praises "the one guy" who could lead us to that promised land. The gender specificity of this statement is immediately obvious, but what follows somehow is not. "I love when politicians talk about how they can't wait to get into office and cut all that wasteful spending," Mike chortles. "We know what that means, right? It means they take all the money from us hard-working people, and they line the pockets of their friends." Huge audience whoops, including from the nice lady next to me who, as the lights had gone down, had been telling her neighbor about how "Giuliani is a great man."

I thereby read Mike's monologue as a direct endorsement of a) McCain, and b) Bush's tax cuts. My martini-swilling associates, however, insist he was backing Obama. In the cold light of reason, their take seems much more feasible; the man himself remains as unfeasible as ever. We stagger out into the East Village night, quotation marks spinning around our heads; we may be fools, but we believe nonetheless.

Monday, March 10, 2008

James Moody will be at the Blue Note with vocalese master Jon Hendricks from April 1-6. This week's blast from the past clip is to get you all in gear for that show, and to honor the master himself! Here is Moody with Dizzy Gillespie's big band in 1968...check out the last 30 seconds, if you've ever received a kiss on the cheeks from Moody, you'll enjoy it!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Michael McDonald performed a sold out show at the Blue Note last night. Here are some photos of the event!

Monday, March 3, 2008


Check it out - tomorrow morning at 9am on ABC-TV, Michael McDonald will perform on LIVE with Regis and Kelly in promotion of his new recording "Soul Speak" and his upcoming performances at the Blue Note. We'll have the video posted as soon as it's ready.

"Soul Speak" is available upstairs in the gift shop for the next two nights!

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Click on the blue/yellow button below that says "Dail-Up/Broadband" next to the image to seen George Whipple's piece on Ben E. King, playing through this weekend on NY1!

Whipple's World
R&B Singer Ben E. King Croons In Village Hotspot
February 29, 2008

After fifty years in the music business, rhythm and blues singer Ben E. King performs his greatest hits in Greenwich Village. NY1’s George Whipple filed the following report.

Ben E. King, noted singer of the rhythm and blues singing group The Drifters, became a household name with his 1961 number-one hit, “Stand By Me.” King’s fans stood by him, and made the song number-one again with its re-release in 1986.

Now, fans can stand by Ben E. King one more time, as he performs through Sunday at the The Blue Note club in Greenwich Village.

"This song has proved itself time and time again. I'm just stunned by it really," said King. "The reaction that I think I enjoy most about it is that the song now belongs to the people."

King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson on September 28th, 1938 in Henderson, North Carolina, but moved to Harlem at the age of nine. He now celebrates 50 years in the music business.

"Music to me is something that I do for someone who’s coming out to enjoy themselves,” said King. “It's not for me to do to see that I have a great limo outside or I got a private plane and a yacht. I don't think it's for that.”

“You get to that world of how important am I and what I should have from music - you're losing music, to me," continued King.

Although he didn't write it, one of King's biggest hits is "Save The Last Dance For Me".

"It's a Doc Pomus/Mort Schuman song,” said King. “The story that goes with that song is that [blues songwriter] Doc Pomus, who was in a wheel chair, he wrote the song and was out with his wife. His wife was asking to dance with a friend of his. So he said, 'That's okay - so long as you save the last dance for me.' Love it!"

Ben E. King will be saving the last dance for you at The Blue Note now through Sunday.

- George Whipple

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Michael McDonald
We keep forgettin’ to give the husky-voiced crooner his due—so here he is!
By John Sellers
  • Illustration: Rob Kelly
    Maybe it’s his stint with the Doobie Brothers. Or those famous team-ups with soft-rock relics Kenny Loggins and Christopher Cross. Or the prematurely gray hair. Whatever the reason, Michael McDonald has been catnip for comedians for more than a quarter of a century now. And his career certainly has been parodied—on SCTV, in the South Park movie and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and, most recently, via the Internet serial Yacht Rock. But the 56-year-old singer and keyboardist has survived the (mostly good-natured) ribbing with surprising grace: “It’s think it’s kind of great,” he says from his home in Nashville. “A lot of it is really funny.” This week at the Blue Note, McDonald will perform his maddeningly catchy classics as well as those from his latest album, Soul Speak, which features covers of songs by such non–Yacht Rock–y artists as Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen and Bob Marley.
  • You should know going into this that I’ve had “I Keep Forgettin’ ” stuck in my head for 25 years now. I think I’m technically insane.
    Well, that’s good to hear.
  • That “Regulate” song by Warren G and Nate Dogg? Didn’t help.
    It’s funny. To my kids, that’s the good version of the song. They say, “Why couldn’t you have written it that way?” They love that record—but not because of anything I did.

    As a guy with prematurely graying hair myself, I want to thank you for being a role model.
    I wish I had a choice in that one, but yeah, you’re welcome.You wore it proudly—like Steve Martin! I wish I could say that I was that way from the beginning. It was only after two or three humiliating episodes where the record company told me, “We’re not going to shoot a video unless you dye your hair,” and I looked like Mr. Chocolate Kiss from Clairol. It had to get really ugly before I decided that I would never dye it again.
  • Have you ever owned a yacht?
    No, but I thought Yacht Rock was hilarious. And uncannily, you know, those things always have a little bit of truth to them. It’s kind of like when you get a letter from a stalker who’s never met you. They somehow hit on something, and you have to admit they’re pretty intuitive.
  • Have you at least lived near a marina?
    No, I never did. Although a couple summers ago, when I opened for Steely Dan, I’d do the encore with them and come out in a little captain’s hat, like Alan Hale Jr. We all wore them onstage.

    And not one of you owns a yacht?
    Not that I know of. Well, David Crosby owns a sailboat. But I’m not sure he counts.

    Okay. So what’s the craziest thing you ever did with Kenny Loggins?
    We mostly worked a lot when we would get together. Kenny, he’s one of those guys who was a more serious artist; I was just a schlub. He was like, “C’mon, let’s get this right,” and I was like, “Got any beer?”

    I’m thinking that your tenure in the Doobie Brothers probably wasn’t drug-free.
    Not exactly, no. Not everybody had the same problems that I had, but there was a few of us who did the dust.

    Did fans almost expect that kind of stuff from you?
    I don’t want it to sound like I’m bragging about smoking pot, but there was a time when that was a big part of our day. Smoking in the morning was normal. But a lot of things became normal to me. Seizures, pissing my pants, waking up in a hotel room with the New York City police at the foot of my bed became normal. It’s not like I’m proud of it.

    Speaking of bad trips, I recently read that Skunk Baxter, the beret-wearing Doobie guitarist, is now a consultant for the Department of Defense.
    Yeah. That’s about as good a reason to store food and hoard cash as I can come up with.

    Michael McDonald plays the Blue Note Tue 4 and Wed 5. Soul Speak is out Tue 4.