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Shades of Blue (1996)

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Dianne Reeves

In 1994, producer-tenor saxophonist Bob Belden received the unusual assignment of putting together a variety of all-star groups to revisit tunes associated with the Blue Note legacy. From November 1994 to March 1995 he recorded most of Blue Note's then-current roster, documenting 39 compositions in all. Twelve are on this CD, while many of the others have been released in Japan. Each of the dozen numbers uses a different group and they are generally consistent, if not filled with surprises. Dianne Reeves,Cassandra WilsonHolly Cole, and Kurt Elling are heard on vocal features (Reeves and Elling fare best), trumpeter Marcus Printup shows off his warm tone on "You've Changed," and, in a performance that brings back the "Bitches Brew" era (and is both the most modern and the most dated of these interpretations), Belden, trumpeter Tim Hagans and three keyboardists explore Andrew Hill's "Siete Ocho." Of the many pianists who are featured on this set (including Geri AllenJacky TerrassonRenee Rosnes, and Eliane Elias), Geoff Keezer's fairly free improvisation on Herbie Nichols' "2300 Skidoo" is the most memorable. Quite unusual is the complete absence of any of the quintet or sextet lineups that were almost a trademark of Blue Note in the '50s and '60s, and the relatively few trumpet and saxophone solos. Sure to be a collector's item, this CD is not essential but it has enough variety to keep the interest of most jazz listeners.