The Blue Note 7: And They’re Off

In the second concert of their 50-stop national tour, the Blue Note 7 drew a full house Friday night at The Seasons Performance Hall in Yakima, Washington. From the opener, Horace Silver’s “The Outlaw,” to the encore, Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels,” the all-star band dipped into the vast repertoire of compositions by artists who have recorded for Blue Note Records in its 70-years. 

Although the Blue Note 7 have recorded one album, the little time they have spent as a unit is out of proportion to the ensemble’s spirit and unified sound. Introducing Lee Morgan’s “Party Time,” pianist Bill Charlap talked about the importance of the blues in Blue Note’s history and in the development of jazz. Then, with his customary taste and power, he proceeded to demonstrate. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton summoned up Morgan in his solo and worked through edgy harmonic ideas that alto saxophonist Steve Wilson developed through six choruses of story-telling improvisation. Peter Washington followed with the first of several impressive bass solos. The all-stars played to an audience so knowledgeable and receptive that the mere mention of a tune’s composer – “Joe Henderson,” “Jackie McLean,” “Freddie Hubbard” — brought applause and cheers. 
Blue Note 7.jpg
Nash, Payton, Bernstein, Coltrane, Charlap, Wilson, Washington
Among the highlights: Payton and drummer Lewis Nash playing off one another’s energy on Hubbard’s “Hub Tones;” guitarist Peter Bernstein’s brilliant solo on the same piece; Wilson’s soulfulness in McLean’s “Ballad for Doll;” the virtuosity and humor in Nash’s long solo on Cedar Walton’s “Mosaic;” the layered Renee Rosnes arrangement and tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane’s joyful phrases in Wayne Shorter’s “United;” Charlap’s consistently authoritative playing throughout, at a peak on Kenny Dorham’s “Escapade.” The encore was sandwiched between two standing ovations. 
With decades of musical material to draw on, writing for the ensemble a continuing adventure for all hands and more bus time together than any band has had since the swing era, it’s going to be fascinating to hear how this group has grown when they get off the road in New York in April. By the time you read this, they have played at The Shedd in Eugene, Oregon and are headed down Interstate 5 to California. Check their itinerary to see if it includes
your town or one near it. This is a band more than worth hearing.  

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. says

    All Star is right! I have seen Payton and Charlap many times and they never disappoint.
    And who is better right now than Nash? NO ONE!

  2. Martin says

    I just saw this band in Boulder, Co on the 17th. Sold out, about 1,000 people. A very appreciative and knowledgeable crowd. I’m familiar with Charlap’s records, which are lyrical and introspective. Wonderful stuff. In this context, he was extroverted and dynamic. A very exceptional musician.
    Plus, it was especially nice to hear Peter Washington solo.
    Oh yes, the choice of tunes was excellent, nothing obvious, well arranged and brilliantly executed.