A Collective of Musicians Re:imagined the Blue Note Catalogue

Ever since its birth, jazz music has continuously evolved into various subgenres. The American record label Blue Note Records, which got established in 1939, played a significant role in this evolution. The company is a landmark in jazz music and has an extensive song catalogue that includes many acclaimed jazz standards. Their new release Re:imagined is a compilation of Blue Note originals brought to you by a unique selection of musicians who’ve taken on jazz, soul, hip-hop, and R&B as their musical narrative.

Blue Note describes the album as “a bridge between the ground-breaking label’s past and future“. The driving force behind this highly anticipated project is a new and vibrant scene of mostly UK-based musicians. They are a group of forward-thinking artists that innovate, even reinvent, the genre through sampling, hip-hop, afrobeat, and dance music.

The compilation album features, among others, Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Alfa Mist, and Jorja Smith. They perform their take on Blue Note classics, often transformed into an easy-to-absorb contemporary remake.

“This 16-track compilation finds today’s youthful, often London-based renaissance in dialogue with the revered New York label’s deep back catalogue.”

The Guardian (review by Kitty Empire)

Not all songs on the album are adaptations of historic jazz standards. Singer-songwriter Jorja Smith opens the album with an electronic and upbeat transformation of St Germain‘s hit song Rose Rouge.

Inner sleeve artwork

Noticeable are the transformations of four original compositions by Wayne Shorter. The American jazz saxophonist composed many acclaimed jazz standards and, it’s no surprise that he is listed here multiple times. He had an influential career and, his contributions to jazz were paramount. In 1959, he joined Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, where he replaced Hank Mobley. And in 1964, he joined Miles Davis‘ second (great) quintet and co-founded jazz fusion.

His compositions spotlighted on Blue Note‘s Re:imagined are Footprints, Armageddon, Speak No Evil, and Night Dreamer.

Footprints is a composition that was originally recorded for his album Adam’s Apple. The track got reworked by the London-based Ezra Collective, who are adding beats to the original. The jazz standard Armageddon got transformed by the Norwegian group Fieh into something that best can be described as neo-soul. The last two, Speak No Evil and Night Dreamer, are cleverly fused into one by Emma- jean Thackray. The songs transform into an adventurous arrangement where, also here, beats dominate.

London Jazz News writes in their review that “for some heritage-loving jazzers this whole vault-raiding exercise will be sacrilege“. They also comment on the life expectations of these adaptations versus the originals: “Some of Blue Note Re:Imagined‘s supposed updates will vanish long before the originals fade and the results often aren’t “jazz” – but the spirit of adventure and imagination in a good number most definitely is.

All in all, despite how the album is being viewed by “heritage-loving jazzers“, and despite it being a compilation, the record is spirited and exhilarating. It’s shelved among the best albums released in 2020 as it spotlights a new wave, and helps you discover the latest in music.

The Best Jazz Albums Released in 2020

2020 wasn’t a great year for culture. Luckily, we still had jazz music and its ability to adapt to any situation. A new generation of musicians emerged and they are blending jazz traditions with spoken word and contemporary sounds. It looks like jazz music has started to reinvent itself once again.

In this article, you can find my five favorite jazz albums that were released in 2020.

Rejoice – Hugh Masekela and Tony Allen

March 2020 / World Circuit ‎WCV094 / EU

Rejoice is the result of a collaboration between Nigerian drummer and co-founder of afrobeat Tony Allen, and South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. The album is a unique fusion of afrobeat and jazz where drums and trumpet are the central elements.

The album was recorded in 2010 at the Livingston Recording Studios in London. The recordings of the unfinished sessions were archived and never released. When Hugh Masekela passed away in 2018, Tony Allen and producer Nick Allen decided to finish the album. Additional recordings took place in the summer of 2019. The album was released in March 2020. A month after the release, also Tony Allen passed away, he was 79 years old.

Tony Allen described the album as “a kind of South African-Nigerian swing-jazz stew”. The album was received very well by jazz critics worldwide.

We Are Sent Here by History – Shabaka And The Ancestors

March 2020 / Impulse! 00602508645631 / EU & US

Four years following the debut album ‘Wisdom Of Elders‘, British-Barbadian saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings recorded and released his second album with the band Shabaka And The Ancestors.

The ensemble, Shabaka And The Ancestors, is a partnership between Shabaka Hutchings (who plays in several other bands) and a group of talented South-African musicians. The result is a futuristic fusion of beats, Hutchings’ tenor sax, and South-African vocal harmonics.

New York Times wrote: “If jazz is looking to reinvent itself, the music of Shabaka And The Ancestors might be a good place to start. Shabaka And The Ancestors are making their own jazz history”.

SourceNubya Garcia

August 2020 / Concord Jazz 00888072175594 / EU

The British tenor saxophonist, Nubya Nyasha Garcia, released her debut studio album in August 2020. During the past few years, Garcia built her music career and public interest with EP releases and live concerts. This album, which is a reflection of her Afro-Caribbean heritage, was long overdue but has finally arrived.

Nubya Nyasha Garcia represents a part of a new generation of London-based jazz musicians that are making jazz history. She is reinventing the genre with a blend of modern jazz, neo-soul, afrobeat, and reggae.

On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment – Ambrose Akinmusire

June 2020 / Blue Note 00602508926198 / EU & US

Music arranger and trumpet player, Ambrose Akinmusire, released his fifth studio album with Blue Note Records last June. This album isn’t as easy to listen to as the other albums from this list. On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment is an abstract fusion of instruments and sounds that lean towards the blues. Yet every song of the album is a unique visionary manifesto of contemporary jazz.

Ambrose Akinmusire follows his acclaimed, genre-busting best-of-2018 manifesto “Origami Harvest” with another visionary statement on his new album “on the tender spot of every calloused moment,” which finds the trumpeter examining blackness on an uncompromising set of modern jazz laced with a heavy feeling of the blues. The album presents 11 new compositions by Akinmusire and features his quartet with pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown with guest vocals from Genevieve Artadi and Jesus Diaz.” – Blue Note

Mama, You Can Bet – Jyoti

August 2020 / SomeOthaShip Connect / US & Canada

Jyoti, which means divine light in the Indian language, is the musical alias for the solo jazz project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Georgia Anne Muldrow. Muldrow previously released R&B/contemporary soul, such as the album Overload (2018), but her work under the name Jyoti takes her creativity to another level.

The music contains elements of jazz, funk, and soul. All blended in the abstract work called Mama, You Can Bet. The album is a compilation of ideas filled with unseen musical experimentation. Georgia Anne Muldrow plays, sings, records, and produces everything herself under her own label, SomeOthaShip Connect, and this is what gives her the creative freedom in music.