Release date: 4th November 2003
Recorded: February 22, 1985
Tracks and Personnel:
“Canteloupe Island” (Herbie Hancock with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Ron Carter, Tony Williams)
“Recorda-me” (Joe Henderson with Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Bobby Hutcherson)
“Little B's Poem” (Bobby Hutcherson with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, James Newton)
“Bouquet” (Bobby Hutcherson with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter)
“Jumpin' Jack” (Stanley Jordan, solo)
“Summertime” (Grover Washington Jr. with Kenny Burrell Reggie Workman, Grady Tate)
“Moanin'” (Art Blakey with Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin, Curtis Fuller, Walter Davis, Jr., Reggie Workman)
“Sweet and Lovely” (McCoy Tyner, solo)
“Appointment in Ghana” (Jackie McLean with Woody Shaw, McCoy Tyner, Cecil McBee, Jack DeJohnette)
“Tone Poem” (Charles Lloyd with Michel Petrucciani, Cecil McBee, Jack DeJohnette)
“Blues Walk” (Lou Donaldson with Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, Grady Tate)
“Jumpin' The Blues” (Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, Grady Tate)
“Scratch My Back” (Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, Grady Tate)
“Pontos Cantados” (Cecil Taylor, solo)
The background is simple; bring together most of the key performers who had made the Blue Note label so important in the preceding twenty five years or so and relaunch the label (after a five year absence) with a gala concert. The date: 22nd February 1985. The place: Town Hall, New York. The time: 8.00 pm. And record the event in high quality stereo with multiple cameras to capture every detail.
However, what took place is pure magic. The concert lasted until 4.00 am. There were almost no constraints on creativity and involvement, as befits any good Blue Note session; a succession of ‘bands of a lifetime’ were assembled as the cast formed and reformed for each number. A twelve minute “Canteloupe Island” with Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Ron Carter and Tony Williams to open the show. A small shift as Bobby Hutcherson joins this stellar band for Joe Henderson’s “Recorda Me”. A further shift as Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard stand down and are replaced by James Newton for Bobby Hutcherson’s “Little B’s Poem”. And then a trio of Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter for Bobby Hutcherson’s cerebral “Bouquet”. The night has begun. Jazz as the stuff of dreams.
The night goes on, stellar bands form and reform from the immense pool of talent lined up somewhere backstage. You get the feeling that the only two musicians of note not there that night are Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter who somehow have missed out on the party. We get over two hours of carefully selected highlights. Somewhere on file there must be a further six hours of this great music. This release was initially subtitled "Vol 1". Where we ask is Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4?
The music is brilliant, indeed, so good that it is invidious to pick out highlights. Later that night there are great performances by Jackie McLean and Woody Shaw (“Appointment in Ghana”), Jimmy Smith and Kenny Burrell with Lou Donaldson (“Blues Walk”) and with Stanley Turrentine (“Jumpin' the Blues” and “Scratch My Back”) and by Grover Washington (“Summertime”).
If a video can ever be as good or better than “being there” this comes close. In re-editing the filmed material in 2003 for DVD release, care has been taken to review the large amount of available material that had remained unused and edit this in to convey a strong impression of “being there”; much improved on the originally released VHS tapes which had used footage concentrating on close ups of the soloists almost exclusively. And of course, sound quality is as superb as you would expect when a record company releases a DVD. The result is an absorbing two hours of quality and creativity, capturing some of the greatest talents in jazz in their prime .
Very highly recommended.
Star Rating *****
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