The Music Lounge

One Night with Blue Note

The essential live jazz album….


In 1985 I saw a concert on late night television (Jazz on 4 perhaps?) which introduced me to the truly legendary artists associated with the Blue Note jazz label. I had already heard of Herbie Hancock via my collection of early George Benson albums and Tony Williams through his association with John McLaughlin and Stanley Clarke, both of whom I had an unusual adolescent admiration for. Freddie Hubbard and Ron Carter I did not know of however but when the opening riff of Canteloupe Island gave way to Hubbard’s trumpet solo I was a changed teenager. That one solo opened up a new world to me, suited and booted, Hubbard in particular, tore it up. Right there and then I got the meaning of ‘jazz cool’. It’s a word long associated with Miles Davis and his peers and by god, that solo was my ‘birth of the cool’. Hubbard blended jazz and funk so effortlessly, it was a masterclass in soloing and that night was not just a celebration of the Blue Note record label, it was one of the great night’s in the genre’s history.

I loved that concert but it is near impossible to get past Canteloupe Island. Only Joe Henderson’s saxophone solo could have followed Hubbard’s, few could have followed that but Henderson did and played his heart out. Hancock, who at that time was enjoying something of a renaissance in the jazz/funk/electronic scene of the early eighties gave us this track. He was the conductor, the hands behind the underlying groove willing Hubbard and Henderson on again. It’s his music and it’s at the top of its game, it’s the riff waiting to be sampled thirty years later, it’s the briefest of looks between them, the nod, the smile. They know it and we know it.

If jazz isn’t your thing, and I get that, then allow yourself a few minutes to be challenged. Turn the volume up and watch. Soak it up and see a record label re-emerging from its sad slumber, awakened by those artists who made jazz so popular from the 50s through to the 70s. See how a middle aged man in a suit makes playing a trumpet so cool….

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