The Grammy Award-winning singer Aaron Neville has a nice new CD out on the venerable Blue Note label, “My True Story,” which is the New Orleans singer’s tribute to doo wop.
Although it was recorded in studios in New York and New Orleans, the relaxed session has a live feel to it. Neville and the band — which includes the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and Greg Leisz on guitar, Tony Scherr on bass and others — sound as if they’re playing after hours in a small club in the French Quarter. It’s genuine downhome music as Neville sings such classics as “Money Honey,” “Ruby Baby,” “My True Story,” “Ting a Ling,” “Gypsy Woman,” “Be My Baby,” “Tears on My Pillow,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “Work with Me Annie,” “This Magic Moment,” ending with Jesse Belvin’s “Goodnight, My Love.”
(Belvin died in a car wreck in Hope in 1960 at the age of 27 after appearing at the first integrated concert with Sam Cooke in Little Rock, which the future music critic Robert Palmer attended as a teenager.)
Blue Note has gone well beyond its jazz roots with the signing of Neville, Norah Jones and other pop artists. But Blue Note has not forgotten its roots and continues to issue terrific jazz.
Among its recent releases is Wayne Shorter’s “Without a Net” (reviewed here Feb. 16), a live recording of the 79-year-old saxophonist’s recent concerts in Europe and Los Angeles, which sound as good as his classic Blue Note recordings from the 1960s.
Blue Note, the world’s most famous jazz label, started in 1939 by two young refugees from Germany, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, has recorded the giants of jazz, from Albert Ammons to Thelonious Monk, from John Coltrane to Horace Silver.
The label made just one record with Coltrane, “Blue Trane,” in 1957, which kicked off his most creative period with Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones (although Coltrane made several fine Blue Note records as a sideman).
After he recorded “Blue Trane,” Coltrane left Blue Note for Atlantic Records and Impulse. He died in 1967, leaving behind his widow Alice and a baby they named for Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitarist. Ravi Coltrane has grown into a major jazz artist and has released his own recording from Blue Note, “Spirit Fiction,” where he plays tenor and alto saxophone. Along with his young band, he’s joined by Geri Allen on piano and tenor player Joe Lovano.
Ravi’s dad would have been proud.
The younger Coltrane has a sound that is as fresh as his father’s when he first came on the scene 65 years ago. Building on the history of modern jazz that his dad helped create, Ravi Coltrane has the good fortune to play alongside Joe Lovano. Much of “Spirit Fiction” consists of duets with Coltrane and Lovano. You have to listen closely to tell the two apart as the older musician inspires the younger Coltrane to play his best.
Lovano’s sound is as accomplished as any saxophone player of our time. His “From the Soul” from 1991 is a modern masterpiece and gets a crown rating from the Penguin Guide to Jazz CDs. It ranks up there with another great saxophone player’s late Blue Note CD, Joe Henderson’s “Live at the Village Vanguard,” which also gets a crown rating in the Penguin guide.
Lovano, who has recorded prolifically for Blue Note, has a new CD out called “Cross Culture” with the Grammy Award-winning bassist Esperanza Spalding, West African guitarist and fellow Blue Note artist Lionel Loueke, James Weidman on piano and Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela on drums.
The sound is superb and the musicianship is classic Blue Note.