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by Seth Colter Walls

August 25, 2014

Blue Note Nuggets Vol. 8: 1966

by Seth Colter Walls  |  August 25, 2014

In honor of Blue Note's 75th anniversary, we've launched a series that takes a look back at hits and obscurities from one of the most important catalogs in all of jazz. From blues to hard bop -- and on to fusion and the avant-garde -- Blue Note has been there. Now you can be, too!

With party-bop groovers, pop covers, and Cecil Taylor’s fiery Unit Structures, this year was hip! Literally! (As you’ll find when you click play and hear Horace Silver’s “Mexican Hip Dance” to start things off.)

No matter how you slice the subgenres, Blue Note covered quite a lot of stylistic ground in this mid-decade year. A few seasons hence, the label’s avant-garde bona fides would receive reinforcement, in the person of Ornette Coleman. But in 1966, Bobby Hutcherson covered Coleman’s “Una Muy Bonita,” while Jack Wilson took on the composition “The Sphinx.” Coleman trumpeter Don Cherry released two smoking statements on the imprint, in this year, too: Where Is Brooklyn? and Symphony for Improvisers.

But in 1966, Blue Note’s experimental edge was sharpest to the touch on albums by the percussive pianist Cecil Taylor. More than on his compositionally adventurous effort Unit Structures, Taylor’s Conquistador! has a more consistently swinging feel — thanks, in part, to the powers of master drummer Andrew Cyrille.

(Hey, perhaps you recognize some of these names, if you’ve been following our monthly jazz roundups? Hutcherson figured in our most recent survey of the best new recordings. Likewise, you can hear Cyrille in our playlist from June — just as he’s also a part of the Trio 3 Artist Spotlight published last week. Talk about a deep history!)

Naturally, 1966 wasn’t just about the wild stuff. We’ve also got Stanley Turrentine’s soulful sax turning in a crisp cover of Sam Cooke’s “Shake,” plus Big John Patton’s “The Yodel.” (Both of those tunes feature Grant Green on guitar, too.) And then there are the reliable crowd-pleasing numbers, such as Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and Lee Morgan’s take on “Sweet Honey Bee.” From deep inside the pocket all the way over to the frontiers of avant-garde attack, this year is one you don’t want to miss!

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