Blue Note All-Stars

Our Point of View

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The debut album from the second iteration of the Blue Note All-Stars, 2017's Our Point of View is an ambitious, highly rewarding double-disc set from the 21st century jazz supergroup. Brought together by Blue Note president and album co-producer Don Was, this version of the Blue Note All-Stars features pianist and album co-producer Robert Glasper, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Kendrick Scott. Each a highly gifted and well-respected solo artist in his own right, together they've come up with an album that avoids the normal clich├ęs of building an all-star supergroup. Rather than play a loose set of well-worn standards, the Blue Note All-Stars focus on original compositions that highlight their own maverick, individualist tendencies. Thankfully, they also play wonderfully as an ensemble and are able to zero in on a sound that works for each member as part of the greater whole. Cuts like Scott's "Cycling Through Reality" and Hodge's "Second Light" have a flowing architecture that balances a roiling, avant-garde improvisational flair with tightly wound contemporary rhythms. Elsewhere, Glasper offers the sprightly "Bayyinah," his kaleidoscopic introductory phrases giving way to a propulsive, psychedelic-tinged jam. Particularly engaging are the several tracks centered on Loueke, including Hodge's gorgeously lyrical, folk-inflected "Message of Hope," in which Loueke geminates his guitar and voice to haunting effect. In contrast, the guitarist's own "Freedom Dance" is a funky hip-hop and Afro-beat-infused jam full of spring-wound electric bass and serpentine effects-dipped improvisations. Interestingly, the only jazz standard that makes the cut is the group's swaggering reading of Wayne Shorter's "Witch Hunt," in which Akinmusire and Strickland evince the post-bop dynamism of Shorter and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard on the original recording, while also pushing the song in their own idiosyncratic directions. In beautiful recognition of Shorter's storied history with the label, they also bring the legendary saxophonist on board for a lush rendition of his classical-leaning, Rhodes keyboard-steeped composition "Masquelero" (originally off Miles Davis' 1967 non-Blue Note album Sorcerer). Joining him is fellow Blue Note legend pianist Herbie Hancock. Perhaps taking a cue from Shorter and Hancock's own maverick, forward-looking career trajectories, with Our Point of View the Blue Note All-Stars have crafted an album that balances a love for the Blue Note label's history with their own deeply creative and endlessly engaging artistic voices.

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