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Thursday, November 24, 2005


BlueNote is renowned for trying to release compilations to get the kids into jazz. Big-hitting hip-hop producers like MadLib and the BlueNote Revisited Series have definitely brought their catalog to the forefront, so the latest Jazzanova release, entitled Jazzanova BlueNote Trip: Looking Back & Moving Forward, is very intriguing.

Instead of releasing yet another remix album, BlueNote let the Berlin DJ crew -Jazzanova - compile their favorite songs from the BlueNote catalog. Mixed into two discs, I’m guessing the vibe was to have mix in some tracks that non-jazz fans would be into, and could be thrown on in a lounge or even get radio play. This isn’t a breakbeat album. It’s a mix of songs that have energetic highpoints, Ron Burgandy flutes and enough vocals to keep newbie jazz fan’s interest. The double disc features some tracks from jazz legends like Herbie Hancock, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Bobbi Humphries and (one of my personal favorites) Horace Silver.

That being said, I’m not really sure what audience this compilation is going to attract. I’m a big jazz fan, so I own most of these “obscure” tracks on other releases, but these silky jams aren’t filled with the recognizable hooks that are going to make new jazz fans want to take a chance on the album. I guess it falls into the “I am getting into Jazz and copped some of the stand out albums, but need a collection I can throw on for a party, or evening with friends” category. The tracks are all great, but they are all subtle. It’s great background music; the type of collection you would hear in a store that didn’t care if you actually shopped there.

The collection is focused into two discs. The first, Looking Back, is highlighted by Horace Silver’s I’ve Had a Little Talk and trumpet sensation Lee Morgan’s Afreaka. All of the songs on this disc are upbeat and finger snapping, and dive slowly into some nice soloing and without trapping people into a series of 11 or 12 minute songs (aside from the album closer – Freddie Hubbards, Blue Spirits). I like this strategy. It let’s people hear a collection of artists without getting bored or lost. This isn’t meant to be a collection made for serious Jazz fans who want to hear a quartet trade solos back and forth from standard melodies, so I think the Jazanova assembled a great collection. A special treat was the inclusion of Tin Tin Deo (James Moody and his Bop Men featuring the great Art Blakey).

The second disc, Moving Forward, opens with the soothing chimes of Bobby Hutcherson’s Love Song. The vibe of this disc changes into a more chilled, breakdown style part of the “set”. Track like Horace Silver’s Nobody Knows add some lovely vocals help push the more grooved out tracks. I was hyped to see Quantrale (Curtis Fuller) included in this collection. This track makes it on my “your first jazz mix” I give to any friend. The standout track on this disc is the upbeat, Latin vibed Merci Bon Dieu by Charlie Rouse. The subtle Spanish guitar compliments the horn perfectly and this is one track I wish was extended up to the 9 or 10 minute mark.

So overall, how can I grade this? I enjoy it, there is no question. It’s a great collection of tracks; I’m just not sure where it fits. If you want to expand your jazz base, this is a fantastic place to start, but if you are only looking for hooks, you might try one of BlueNote’s other comps. This is a nice CD for any person, who like Deron Williams, is new to the game and looking to get serious with the Jazz.


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