'Blue Note at 75' Through Sunday at Kennedy Center
“Blue Note at 75,” the week-long diamond anniversary celebration of the iconic jazz recording label climaxes this weekend with a series of performances, exhibitions, and, on Sunday, with “Blue Note at 75, The Concert,” with an all-assembly of vocalists and top jazz musicians at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater.
Rarely has a recording label been such an iconic, emblematic presence for a genre of music—except perhaps for Deutschegrammaphone in the classical arena—as Blue Note has been for jazz, which sprang out of America to become the world-wide sound that it is today.
Blue Note was founded by two German immigrants and childhood friends, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, who settled in New York in the 1930s. Together with recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder and commercial designer Reid Miles, they put Blue Note and with it jazz into the stratosphere, recording the music and its stars as it moved through hot jazz, Boogie Woogie and Swing, through Bepop, Hard Bop and Post Bop, to Soul Jazz, Avant Garde and fusion and beyond.
Most of the major performers, musicians, bands, vocalists and stars of jazz were on the label—from Cannonball Adderely to Miles Davis, to Dianne Reeves to Wynton Marsalis, from Donald Byrd to Bud Powell, to Thelonious Monk, a list that includes some surprises like Norah Jones and Willie Nelson.
Jones will be on hand for the all-star concert Sunday, which will also feature singer Dianne Reeves, saxophonist Joe Lovano, Blue Note recording artist and Kennedy Center artist advisor for jazz Jason Moran, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Brian Blade and organist Lonnie Smith, among others.
The week-longer celebration has been held all over the Kennedy Center, as well as venues throughout the city. The center's Millennium Stage was a venue for many of the performances and will feature bassist and composer Dereck Hodge on Saturday, Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band on Sunday and an all-star Washington D.C.-based group of musicians that will salute Blue Note on Friday. Featured D.C. musicians include Elijah Jamal Balbed, tenor/soprano sax and musical director, Lyle Link, alto sax and flute, Kenny Rittenhouse, trumpet, Raynel Frazier, trombone, Tim Whalen, piano, Eliot Seppa, bass and Dave McDonald, drums, playing compositions from various Blue Note recordings.
Multi-Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard will perform with his group at the Terrace Theater Friday. In the center's Atrium, the Grammy-winning hip-hop jazz pianist Robert Glasper brings an up-beat note to the Blue Note proceedings with his cutting style, in "The Crossroads Club: Robert Glasper Experiment.”
There are also films, exhibitions, panel discussions and concerts around town throughout the month, including an ongoing “Blue Note at 75 Grammy Museum Exhibit” in the Hall of States at the Kennedy Center through May 21.
For all information on times, venues and dates, go to the Kennedy Center website