Blue Note Highlights Drummers in New ‘Review’


The second volume in the Blue Note Review subscription series, Spirit & Time, focuses on drummers.

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The Blue Note label is following up its inaugural Blue Note Review set, 2017’s Peace, Love & Fishing, with a second volume in the subscription series. Like its predecessor, the set Spirit & Time features a vinyl pressing of exclusive tracks with a corresponding CD. The new set is filled with audio and visual treasures. The hefty box includes new, 180-gram vinyl pressings of rare albums by drummer Art Blakey and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, lithographs of photos of Blakey and drummer Elvin Jones taken by Francis Wolff, a magazine and a pack of Topps trading cards featuring Blue Note musicians.

The compilation included with Peace, Love & Fishing (which now is sold out) featured a variety of previously unreleased recordings. The compilation for Spirit & Time includes eight tracks, seven of which are newly recorded versions of drummer Tony Williams’ original compositions (which he recorded during his second stint on Blue Note). The eighth is “Juicy Fruit,” an unreleased track from Williams’ 1993 album, Tokyo Live, recorded with his quintet.

Don Was—Blue Note president and Blue Note Review publisher—curated both volumes in the subscription series. Spirit & Time focuses primarily on the work of drummers. “I was off on a kick, listening to the six records that Tony Williams made for Blue Note from ’85 to ’93,” Was recalled. “They are among the greatest records in the catalog, and they really don’t have the requisite amount of appreciation that they deserve.”

The bandleaders represented on Spirit & Time include Brian Blade, Kendrick Scott, Tony Allen and Chris Dave, all of whom are currently on the Blue Note roster, as is the British trio GoGo Penguin. Also featured are Eric Harland, who has collaborated extensively with Blue Note saxophonist Charles Lloyd, and Nate Smith, who frequently has worked with Blue Note vocalist José James.

“Juicy Fruit” is a Williams composition that appeared on his album Native Heart (1990). “I went through all the tapes from Tokyo Live. He recorded two sets for five nights,” Was explained. “This was from the first night, which was a little raw. They don’t quite have the balances right. But the playing is everything you love about Tony: He had that unique mixture of eloquence and power and musicality. He defined a new way of playing drums.”

The vinyl reissues in the new set are Blakey’s Africaine (recorded in 1959, first released on vinyl in 1981 and then on CD in 1998) and Hutcherson’s Patterns (recorded in 1968 and released in 1980). In contrast, the sole reissue included with Peace, Love & Fishing was Blue Mitchell’s Step Lightly. That set also included a scarf designed by John Varvatos. Was opted for more vinyl for the new box set: “Last time, we had a scarf, which was expensive, and we didn’t have a suitable item like that. So we thought, ‘Let’s just do more music.’”

Spirit & Time includes a magazine titled Out of the Blue, which features interviews with Billy Hart and Victor Lewis, as well as a paragraph of text and a sketch of Bud Powell by Colleen Williams, Tony’s widow. There’s also a collection of quotes from other drummers, writings about Williams by Blade and a comic strip in which Terence Blanchard shares the story of when fellow trumpeter and Jazz Messenger alumnus Freddie Hubbard sat in with Blakey’s group. “There’s a lot of insight into jazz drumming,” Was said of the publication. “I learned a lot from it.”

Vinyl collectors and audio nerds will be drawn to the subscription series. “This time we had Joe Harley from Music Matters overseeing the mastering,” Was noted. “So, everything is audiophile and all done according to Music Matters specifications.”

Spirit & Time is limited to 2,000 units, and the set can be ordered at DB

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