Blue Note 75 for 75: Jimmy Smith’s Cool Blues (1958)

Our tenth feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is a quintessential Blue Note live jam. Originally recorded in 1958 at Small’s Paradise in Harlem, it had to wait twenty years until first release, belatedly issued by Blue Note in 1978. The record in question is Jimmy Smith’s killer Cool Blues. Check out this swingin’ take on a traditional Romani song, “Dark Eyes:”

Not sure if that ever got the jazz treatment before but I totally dig it. Small’s was an intimate venue with all the musicians crammed up on a tiny stage, shouting encouragement to each other and just really diggin’ in:

That’s Lou Donaldson on alto and Eddie McFadden on guitar. They were joined on this date by Tina Brooks on tenor and either Art Blakey or Donald Bailey on drums. The leader, Jimmy Smith, was rockin’ the organ, of course and giving it his usual all. Check out his solo on the title track:

This record was positively huge for me personally as I had never really been open-minded about jazz organ before and I spun this album a lot on my radio show in Montreal. In turn, it opened me up to the underrated talent of Tina Brooks and subtle guitar work of Eddie McFadden. Blue Note released a few other great Jimmy Smith live jams but this one remains my sentimental favorite.

Here’s the alternate cover issue from Japan:

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: Pete La Roca’s Basra (1965)

Our ninth feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is Pete La Roca’s Basra, a stunning masterpiece of modal jazz that has flown under the radar for decades.  A drummer of exceptional taste and restraint, La Roca only recorded three albums as a leader and is as well-remembered for leaving jazz to become a lawyer as he is for his delightful drum work. A top-five drummer for me, I’ll listen to anything he’s played on. Basra is an incredible record, mostly in the modal style, that features some unique and memorable tunes:

I could spin that track forever… And it helps to have a strong line-up to vibe your ideas off. Joe Henderson was just coming into his own as a tenor saxophonist while Steve Kuhn and Steve Swallow each formed strong voices on their respective instruments and were rarely used by Blue Note so their presence here is a treat.

As you can tell, I have a real soft spot for this record. Here is the stunning title track:

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75…

Blue Note 75 for 75: Ornette Coleman’s The Empty Foxhole (1966)

Our eighth feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is a bit of an anomaly. I wanted to highlight a Blue Note album featuring  Charlie Haden since he just passed away and stumbled across this Ornette album that I’d heard of but never actually listened to.

The Empty Foxhole was controversial at the time of release for featuring Coleman’s ten-year old son on drums. And listening to it now, it is easy to see why. Denardo Coleman is game to his Dad’s vision and helped steadily along (rhythmically speaking) by Haden’s very engaged bass playing. But overall, his contribution feels like a novelty and in terms of the music, one wishes Ed Blackwell or Charles Moffatt had been engaged instead.

On the plus side, Ornette’s playing is quite strong on alto and his development on trumpet and violin was progressing rapidly. If you focus on Ornette exclusively, his playing is quite rewarding. Charlie Haden is a bit handcuffed by Denardo but also gets lots of moments to shine. There is a vigorous energy to the music that suggests the trio were definitely having a good time vibing off each other.


The Empty Foxhole, unlike Ornette’s other Blue Notes, has only sporadically been available. I can only recommend it to the most hardcore Ornette connoisseur as it is a formidable listen but not an altogether essential one.

Blue Note 75 for 75: Horace Silver’s Blowin’ The Blues Away (1959)

Our seventh feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is the recently departed Horace Silver’s masterpiece, Blowin’ The Blues Away. This album is a classic for a reason. It features Silver’s most consistent line-up in Blue Mitchell (tp), Junior Cooks (ts), Gene Taylor (b) and Louis Hayes (d). It also finds Horace hitting his solo album songwriting stride: front-to-back, this record is cookin’! Check out “The St. Vitus Dance” for some of Horace’s trademark catchy hard bop:

“Baghdad Blues” has always been a favorite of mine. Silver just knew how to write a tight tune and the blending of Cook and Mitchell’s voices is superb. Snappy solos from both too!

I’m still pretty downbeat about Horace’s passing. Between his solo work, his early Messengers contributions, and later soul jazz excursions, Silver constantly worked hard at making jazz extremely accessible and fun without losing any of technical aspects or jukebox cred.

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75!

RIP, Charlie Haden (1937-2014)

Charlie Haden, one of my all-time favorite bassists, passed away recently. I was out-of-town and missed the news. It bums me out deeply, doing all these RIP posts — one of the reasons I stopped doing this blog for awhile. I haven’t even had a chance to do a proper Horace Silver tribute and now I gotta do a Haden one too. Such amazing musicians, such amazing contributions. They will be missed!

RIP, Horace Silver (1928-2014)

Horace Silver has passed away at age 85. A masterful composer who wrote many of Blue Note’s most beloved jazz hits, Silver had a long career with the label and recorded almost 100 albums for them as either a sideman or a leader. RIP, Horace Silver.


Read the NYT obit here:

All About Ornette!











On Wed, June 11th, I will be teaching a class at Brooklyn Brainery on the music and cultural impact of Ornette Coleman:

The following day, Thurs, June 12th, Ornette will be performing at Celebrate Brooklyn: