Back in the late 1980s—before I began writing and editing—I worked at the Blue Note jazz club in Manhattan. Even then, the club had an expanding empire, with franchises in three Japanese cities.
The company (Blue Note Entertainment Group) has continued to spread its wings and its headliner-booking might in other cities and in its hometown, New York City—especially through its multi-venue June Blue Note Jazz Festival, now in its fourth year (this year, June 1-30).
The event amiably fills the void left by the absence of impresario George Wein’s former Manhattan-based jazz festivals, and serves as a nice mainstream counterpoint to two other annual events, Winter Jazzfest, which mines the full diversity of New York’s scene, and the Vision Festival, this country’s essential gathering of avant-garde improvising musicians. (This year’s Vision Festival runs June 11-15 at Brooklyn’s Roulette; more details on that to come).
This year’s Blue Note Jazz Festival features more than 150 performances at 15 venues. There are established superstars giving us what we know we’ll adore, like Aretha Franklin (June 14&15, Radio City Music Hall); rare pairings that might just surprise us, such as singer Bobby McFerrin with the drummer-bandleader Questlove (June 13, Town Hall), and pianist André Previn in duet with bassist Christian McBride (Blue Note club, June 6-8); there’s also fresh developments along jazz’s landscape, including the U.S. debut of the Children of the Light Trio—pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, otherwise known as 3/4 of saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s brilliant quartet (Blue Note club, June 17-22).
A full schedule can be found here.