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:


Blue Note 75 for 75: Lee Morgan’s Vol. 3 (1957)

Our sixth feature for Blue Note 75 for 75 is Lee Morgan’s Vol. 3: a powerful showcase for the writing and arranging skills of tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. Here is the ultra-fleet and catchy “Domingo,” a song I keep repeatedly dropping the needle on:

Golson’s composing skills are legendary in jazz. Many of his songs became standards and are still in the repertoire of performers today. Golson writes to Morgan’s strengths as a young firebrand but also includes one of his most famous ballads, “I Remember Clifford,” as a showcase for the trumpeter’s more tender, lyrical side:

Morgan was gaining plaudits at this time as an heir to Clifford Brown, who had died tragically young the year before. Sadly, Morgan’s life would end prematurely as well. But the music both men left will sustain us indefinitely. This is one of my favorite Lee Morgan records.

Big shout-out to the rest of the line-up too! Gigi Gryce is a sharp alto player with an incisive wit and it is hard to top the Wynton Kelly /Paul Chambers tandem on piano and bass either. Charlie Persip is a drummer I am less familiar with but he acquits himself nicely.

Stay tuned for more Blue Note 75 for 75!


Scaled In Miles

Scaled In Miles

A really cool interactive Miles Davis site that lets you track all his sidemen and recordings throughout his career, including sound clips!