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The Blue Note 7 On JazzSet

Ever since it was founded in 1939, Blue Note Records has had a profound, lasting influence on jazz. A pantheon of legends recorded groundbreaking LPs on Blue Note, while the label's distinctive album design and cover art helped define the "Blue Note style." To commemorate its 70th anniversary, Blue Note put together an all-star ensemble to re-interpret music from its most memorable albums. Led by musical director and pianist Bill Charlap, the group recorded a CD called Mosaic and embarked on a 50-city tour. On Apr. 5, 2009, JazzSet recorded the burning-down-the-house highlights of the Blue Note 7 at the Kennedy Center.

Charlap has saluted George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein on recent Blue Note CDs. His bassist for the past decade has been Peter Washington, an alumnus of that great Blue Note crucible of talent, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, as is trumpeter Nicholas Payton. From New Orleans, Payton is a "young lion" of the 1990s who's unafraid to experiment with elements of hip-hop and electronica in his music.

Ravi Coltrane is the son of the legendary saxophonist John and harpist Alice Coltrane. His father's Blue Note album Blue Train inspired Ravi to pick up the sax and develop his own sound. Steve Wilson is a native Virginian, much in demand for his skills on alto and soprano sax and flute, often heard on JazzSet. Guitarist Peter Bernstein got his start with a longtime member of the Blue Note family, saxophonist Lou Donaldson, who's still going strong. And drummer Lewis Nash made his name during extended tenures with vocalist Betty Carter and pianist Tommy Flanagan.

In "Mosaic," Nash takes charge with a crisp introduction and climactic solo full of energy, variety and direction. Before that song, there's a title that sums up the spirit of every great band on the Blue Note label for 70 years: "United."

This segment originally ran May 14, 2009.

Credits: Thanks to tour producer Danny Melnick, Kennedy Center Artistic Director Dr. Billy Taylor, Director of Jazz Programming Kevin Struthers with Jean Thill at the Kennedy Center. Music recording and Surround Sound remix by Duke Markos with Big Mo Recording. Writer Mark Schramm, producer Becca Pulliam.

Copyright 2009 WBGO

Mark Schramm