REVIEW: Celebrating 75 Years of Blue Note Records at the Royal Festival Hall (2014 EFG LJF)

Jason Moran (left and Robert Glasper (right) RFH, Nov 2014
Photo Credit: Roger Thomas

Celebrating 75 Years of Blue Note Records: Robert Glasper, Jason Moran, Lionel Loueke, Ambrose Akinmusire, Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge, and Kendrick Scott
(Royal Festival Hall, 22 November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Jonathan Carvell)

Blue Note’s 75th anniversary concert on the penultimate day of the EFG London Jazz Festival saw a host of heavyweights underline the bright future of the label. The first half was taken by Jason Moran and Robert Glasper in close to an hour straight through of piano duo. This was a performance redolent of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea’s great duets, even culminating in Maiden Voyage – albeit Glasper’s Radiohead-infused version. Both pianists made their own distinct styles clear: Moran with percussive prepared piano and blues licks; Glasper with irresistible harmonies and allusions to R&B. Given its intensity, this first half would have proved ample celebration for many. However, this was but a prelude for the all-star sextet which took to the stage after the interval, when Glasper was joined by Marcus Strickland (sax), Ambrose Akinmusire  (trumpet), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Kendrick Scott  (drums) and Derrick Hodge (bass).

L-R: Lionel Loueke, Kendrick Scott, Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge,
Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Glasper. Photo Credit: Roger Thomas  

After a Blue Note classic, Witch Hunt by Wayne Shorter, the sextet really came to life with Kendrick Scott’s composition Cycling Through Reality, which erupted spectacularly from the middle of an extended drum solo. Akinmusire illuminated the Royal Festival Hall with his golden tone and the rhythm section of Glasper, Scott and Hodge grooved effortlessly throughout. Lionel Loueke added fresh perspectives with his West African style, and also shone as a composer as the evening progressed with his Freedom Dance. Regular collaborators Derrick Hodge and Robert Glasper formed the foundation for some of the evening’s best moments: Hodge’s understated, muscular playing creating the perfect platform for Glasper’s virtuosity and wit. The concert concluded with Message of Hope from Hodge’s first album as leader, providing a fitting, almost spiritual end to proceedings.

With artists this talented, collaborating as well as they did here, it’s clear that the future of the label is in good hands. An exceptional evening which gave proof - if any were needed - that Blue Note is in rude health at 75 years old.

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