If you wandered into Starbucks Coffee in 1995 and heard a Blue Note recording playing in the background, it was no coincidence. In the mid-'90s, Starbucks and Blue Note/Capitol had an arrangement -- Blue Note plugged Starbucks, and Starbucks plugged Blue Note. That arrangement resulted in various Blue Note compilations; assembled in 1995, this one was the first. Blue Note Blend, Vol. 1 could have been titled "Jazz Basics" because its main focus is some of the better-known jazz recordings of the '50s and '60s. Blue Note Blend, Vol. 1 was not assembled with hardcore jazz collectors in mind; the target audience is Starbucks patrons who have a casual interest in jazz and need to start out with the basics. Except for US3's "Cantaloop" -- a dance/hip-hop instrumental that, in 1993, sampled Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" -- this CD focuses on the '50s and '60s, and listeners get a rewarding dose of introductory Blue Note 101 with gems like Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," and John Coltrane's "Blue Train." About half the selections, however, did not come out on Blue Note originally -- they were recorded for Pacific Jazz, Roulette, or Capitol itself. In the '80s, Blue Note/Capitol had acquired the Pacific Jazz and Roulette catalogs, which explains the presence of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington's 1961 version of "Duke's Place" and Chet Baker's definitive 1955 performance of "Let's Get Lost." Neither of those treasures were actually recorded for Blue Note, although they were the property of Blue Note/Capitol when Blue Note Blend was assembled in 1995. But if Blue Note Blend takes liberties, they're good liberties. Regrettably, Blue Note doesn't provide exact recording dates or list all of the musicians and producers, which is inexcusable. Nonetheless, most of the selections are first-rate.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson