Eugene Weekly : Music : 1.8.09

Out of the Blue
Celebrating jazz history at the Shedd
by Brett Campbell

Blue Note 7

“Bue Note Records is jazz history,” says today’s reigning straightahead jazz pianist, Bill Charlap. A decade after the company’s founding by a pair of immigrant German jazz lovers 70 years ago, it became the font of the hard bop movement that for the next generation united modernist artistic ambition with ear-friendly grooves to a degree seldom achieved in 20th century music. Blue Note detonated the careers of Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Lou Donaldson, Clifford Brown, Kenny Burrell, Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Smith, Lee Morgan, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Andrew Hill, Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon and a dozen other masters, and recorded some of the best efforts of other giants such as Fats Navarro, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and many more. The founders’ enthusiasm and support for their great musicians permeated the product; recorded under much more sympathetic conditions (including adequate rehearsal time) than most jazz musicians enjoyed at the time, BN records sounded better than almost anything else, and, thanks to the evocative album covers lavished upon them by label founder/photographer Francis Wolff, they looked better, too. Aurally and visually, many of the original Blue Note records stand as pinnacles of 20th century popular art. 

Since the label’s 1985 revival, it has maintained the genre’s highest standards even as the music itself has become less central to American culture. On January 10, the Shedd celebrates Blue Note’s 70th anniversary year with a concert of BN classics by a touring band of label all-stars (Nicholas Payne, Steve Wilson, Ravi Coltrane, Peter Bernstein, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash) led by the redoubtable Charlap. Despite their individual chops, like the old BN house band, the ensemble blends and cooks like great team players. Their show is a must see even for casual jazz fans. 

Though he records for a different label, the cover art and sound of the nationally acclaimed young trumpet star Jeremy Pelt’s acoustic records lean heavily on mid-1960s Blue Note models, and on Jan. 16, the Shedd features his quintet in another highly recommended jazz concert. Don’t let the visitors overshadow Eugene’s own homegrown jazz scene. After the Shedd show, you can imbibe a nightcap featuring the Douglas Detrick Quintet at Jo Federigo’s, and on Jan. 15, Detrick/Swigert Jazz Orchestra, featuring some of the city’s prime jazzers, plays strong original jazz by its two founders at Cozmic Pizza.

It’s not jazz, but there’ll be some mighty winds blowing at the UO this month. On Jan. 12, Aaron Shragge will play Zen Buddhist music of Japan on the difficult-to-master but lovely-to-listen-to shakuhachi bamboo flute. The young New Yorker is also a trumpeter and student of the equally venerable classical music of North India, and he’ll play ragas from that repertoire and original tunes inspired by both traditions at the campus’s Collier House, 1170 E. 13th. Accompanied by local tabla master Doug Scheurell and other locals, Shragge will also play Indian music in a brief, free show in the university’s ever-ear-tingling Sound Bytes series at the Erb Memorial Union. On Jan. 20, that noonish series features a new electric viola piece by UO music prof Christian Cherry. And on Jan. 14, UO music students will play music for flutes and horns by Catherine McMichael, Luciano Berio, Jan Bach, Franz Doppler and more in a free concert at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. You can hear another evocative wind instrument, the aboriginal Australian didjeridu, in a concert featuring Todd Johnson’s project of that name, at 4 pm Jan. 11 at First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive. He’ll play solo numbers and others accompanied by guitar and handbells.

Also this Sunday at United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington, the Oregon Bach Collegium will host a short performance of Baroque music featuring their expert members and participants in a workshop. The fact that several dozen local musicians signed up bodes well for early music in Eugene.