Blue Note All-Stars' Debut Album Paints A Portrait Of Contemporary Jazz Robert Glasper, Kendrick Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire and a handful of other Blue Note stars join forces on a new album called Our Point of View.
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Blue Note All-Stars' Debut Album Paints A Portrait Of Contemporary Jazz

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Blue Note All-Stars' Debut Album Paints A Portrait Of Contemporary Jazz

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Music Reviews

Blue Note All-Stars' Debut Album Paints A Portrait Of Contemporary Jazz

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In 2014, the jazz label Blue Note Records gathered six of its musicians for a new group. They called them Blue Note All-Stars. Music commentator Michelle Mercer says their debut album testifies to jazz as a modern art form. It's titled "Our Point Of View."

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS' "MEANINGS")

MICHELLE MERCER, BYLINE: For its 75th anniversary, Blue Note wanted to celebrate jazz's present as much as it's past. The label's current roster includes some of today's most dynamic male composers and players like keyboardist Robert Glasper, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott. Coming together as the Blue Note All-Stars, their debut album is a portrait of contemporary jazz.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS' "MEANINGS")

MERCER: Today's Blue Note artists reckon with the glory days of the 1960s when the label dominated the jazz landscape with a spate of influential recordings. The All-Stars honor that legacy by covering two classic Wayne Shorter tunes, updating his "Witch Hunt" with some millennial intensity.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS' "WITCH HUNT")

MERCER: But it's the All-Stars original compositions from each band member that give the album its passion, building on the past with current jazz values. They have equal respect for electric and acoustic textures, handle odd meters, hip-hop and R&B grooves with the same dexterity. And tend to write their tunes from the rhythm up.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS' "BAYYINAH")

MERCER: Glasper's tune "Bayyinah," for example, is a forceful, epic statement of everything he wants modern jazz to be.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS' "BAYYINAH")

MERCER: The album also has an African feel. Loueke is from Benin, and Akinmusire is Nigerian-American.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREEDOM DANCE")

BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS: (Singing, unintelligible).

MERCER: Listen to how naturally the saxophone solo grows out of African dance music on Loueke's "Freedom Dance." The track has the stimulating blends and easy momentum of a good house party where anyone who can hang is welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS' "FREEDOM DANCE")

MERCER: The album's most moving tunes come from bassist Derrick Hodge. Here on his "Message Of Hope," the band luxuriates in descending lines, taking on the mood of a church choir that keeps singing after the congregation has left just for the joy of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MESSAGE OF HOPE")

BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS: (Singing, unintelligible).

MERCER: This album is most compelling when the musicians are not preaching a self-conscious or strident message. In their best moments, the All-Stars play for the love of jazz. They play to wash away the dust of everyday life, and that might just keep Blue Note Records and jazz going forever.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS' "MESSAGE OF HOPE")

SIEGEL: The new album from Blue Note All-Stars is "Our Point Of View." Michelle Mercer had our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE NOTE ALL-STARS' "MESSAGE OF HOPE")

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