In Honor of today’s date, 11/11/11, today we are posting the TOP 11 Blue Note Jazz Club MOMENTS of 2011 thus far. This year has been so full of special events and surprise artists that it was hard to choose just eleven, so feel free to share your own in the comment sections below. If you’ve taken video, pictures, or have something to say, go ahead and post it! Here’s our list, in chronological order:
1. MS. LAURYN HILL – January 3 – 5: This was by far the fastest selling show of the year, which is not surprising considering the rarity of seeing Ms. Hill and the intimacy of the Blue Note. The show was reviewed extremely positively, and yes, she did perform “Killing Me Softly.”
2. ROBERT GLASPER with LUPE FIASCO, MOS DEF & KANYE WEST - February 26: The show was billed as the Robert Glasper Experiment put together by AMI and Jill Newman Productions, and in addition to special guest Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def was rumored to be in the house. Then, Kanye West walked up the stairs, and 30 minutes later, all three were on stage freestyling…yes, this was at the Blue Note! If you haven’t seen this video, watch it now(courtesy of OkayPlayer/The Revivalist).
3. CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF JAMES MOODY – March 28: James Moody wasn’t just an incredible jazz musician – he was one of the warmest, kindest, most gracious human beings ever to walk through these doors. He was so generous with his time and treated every person he met with dignity and respect. He left this world too soon in December of 2010, and on March 28, Moody’s wife Linda hosted a benefit concert for the Moody Scholarship Fund at the Blue Note featuring Bill Cosby, Jimmy Heath, Kenny Barron, John Lee, Paquito D’Rivera, Antonio Hart, Frank Wess, David Sanborn and just about every great musician in New York City. The tribute was poignant on a musical and emotional level, and we’ll be having another one next year at the same time with all of the money going to the Scholarship Fund. Here’s a picture from the evening.
4. BLUE NOTE JAZZ BENEFIT FOR JAPAN - April 18 & 19: On March 11, Japan was hit by a tsunami that caused thousands of deaths and devastating destruction. New York City, along with the rest of the world, quickly came to Japan’s aid with an outpouring of support. The artistic community in particular sprang into action, with benefits popping up all over the city. Japan-born Blue Note talent buyer Seiko Kinoshita, who also worked at our Blue Notes in Japan, put together The Blue Note Jazz Benefit For Japan at the Highline Ballroom which received so much support from artists and ticket buyers that they added a second night. Both evenings featured high-profile acts like McCoy Tyner, Madeleine Peyroux, Ron Carter and Renee Fleming, with 100% of the proceeds going to Japan’s Relief & Recovery Fund.Here, hundreds of prominent musicians wrote to Blue Note Tokyo about their love and support for Japan during their most trying times.
5. GEORGE DUKE, AL JARREAU & ESPERANZA SPALDING – May 14: Longtime collaborators George Duke and Al Jarreau, the latter appearing at the Blue Note for the first time, joined forces for a week at the club. On May 14, the band was joined by recent Grammy Award winner for Best New Artist, bassist Esperanza Spalding. Click here for theset list from that evening, and here is a picture of the pair signing autographs at the gift shop.
6. INAUGURAL BLUE NOTE JAZZ FESTIVAL – Month of June: June 2011 marked the firstBlue Note Jazz Festival, which took the jazz world by storm as the city’s largest festival. “In its inaugural year, the Blue Note Jazz Festival is already a juggernaut,” wrote the Wall St. Journal, remarking on the 100 performances in 15 different venues all over New York City. The festival, which featured Brian Wilson, Chaka Khan, Dave Brubeck, Chris Botti, The Roots and so many more, was promoted in taxi cabs, on banners at the club and all over the city.
7. THE ROOTS with…DAVE CHAPPELLE? – June 22: For one night only, Jill Newman Productions presented The Roots with Rakim & Black Thought performing the seminal hip-hop album Paid In Full on its 25th anniversary. Talib Kweli and Razel were in the audience and jumped on stage, but most surprising of all, legendary comedian Dave Chappelle showed up and actually talked to the audience from his seat. He made a few funny comments, but mostly gushed about what it was like to be a kid and hear Paid In Full for the first time. But most importantly, The Roots were on the Blue Note stage, and here’s some proof in video form.
8. THE CRAZIEST NIGHT OF THE BLUE NOTE JAZZ FESTIVAL – June 24: There was one night that stuck out during the Blue Note Jazz Festival for the sheer volume of shows and talent presented on stages throughout the city. Dee Dee Bridgewater plus Chrisette Michele at Town Hall, Maya Azucena at The Highline Ballroom, Youssou N’Dour at Terminal 5, Milton Nascimento at Rose Hall in Lincoln Center, Roberta Flack at BB Kings, and Estelle and The Recessionals Jazz Band at the Blue Note. It took four tweets just to tell followers who was playing that night!
9. RAY BROWN TRIBUTE BAND – August 16 – 21: Ray Brown is considered one of the founding fathers of the Blue Note, helping to bring some of the biggest artists to play here like Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie at a time when those artists were only playing concert halls. Fittingly, the Ray Brown Tribute Band is one of the hardest swinging bands around, featuring Christian McBride (a protégé of Brown), Dee Bridgewater, Benny Green and Greg Hutchinson, all of whom performed with the maestro at various points before his untimely passing in 2002. Concertgoers gushed that it was one of the best shows they’d ever seen at the club. Here’s some video footage of the band and coupled with interviews of the band members talking about Ray Brown.
10. PAT METHENY – October 11 – 16: “This is the first time I’ve played a club in New York in 30 years,” Pat Metheny told a captive audience at the Blue Note in October. Joined by bassist Larry Grenadier, Metheny played electric and acoustic guitar, dabbled for one song on hisPikasso guitar and played his final tunes of the night with the Orchestrion, which was among the most impressive and unique musical feats ever to grace (or fit on) the Blue Note stage. One of the highlights of the week was Pat sitting by himself on stage, sound-checking his acoustic guitar with the beautiful, haunting melody of the theme song from the film Cinema Paradiso. Check out a New York Times review of the show here.
11. CHICK COREA 70th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION – November 1 – 27: Not even midway through the run, Chick has already logged over 50 hours on the Blue Note stage including performances and rehearsals. So far he has performed with Return To Forever Unplugged, a trio with Brian Blade and Gary Peacock (pic here), with the Five Peace Band ft. John McLaughlin and Kenny Garrett (check www.facebook.com/bluenotenyc for pictures), and in duos with Bobby McFerrin (rehearsing Beatles tunes video here). Incredibly, there is so much more to come: Chick and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet, the For Miles Band featuring Miles Davis band alumni, The Flamenco Heart band, duos with Marcus Roberts and Herbie Hancock, and finally the Original Elektric Band. Certainly one of the biggest and best celebrations ever at the Blue Note.