The New York record label Blue Note is an iconic institution.
It is to jazz music as Trojan Records is to reggae, or Motown is to soul, writes Joe Marshall. And now it’s got South London’s fingerprints all over it.
Established in 1939, the division of Universal has been responsible for releases from the likes of Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane.
2020 saw the release of the internationally successful Blue Note Re:imagined.
A collection of classic tracks reworked by UK musicians, it was a popular celebration of jazz history with a contemporary edge.
Blue Note Re:imagined II will come out on September 30. It promises to deliver a similar blend of forward thinking nostalgia.
Kay Young grew up in Brockley.
She is a producer, singer and rapper, whose version of a Marlena Shaw song features on the record.
Recalling fond childhood memories of street parties and a strong community spirit, she said: “South London is like no other place. I don’t know if I could move anywhere else.”
She said: “A local Caribbean takeaway restaurant would throw parties every week. It helped shape my music in terms of the stuff I listen to now – a bit of reggae, a bit of funk, blues.
“The vibrancy of South London adds colour to your music. There’s a lot of layers in my music and I think it’s because of what I’ve been exposed to.”
Young chose to cover Feel Like Making Love, as a song she’s always held dear, before even realising it was part of the Blue Note catalogue.
As far as being called upon by the legendary label goes, she said: “There’s so much weight behind them. To be a part of that history is an absolute honour.”
Oscar Jerome has come up through the South London jazz scene. He has recorded his take on (Why You So) Green With Envy by Grant Green.
The guitarist and singer-songwriter, who was once a part of afrobeat collective Kokoroko, said: “I have listened to Blue Note records so much in the past that it’s pretty cool to say that I’m on one.
“Grant Green writes songs with very clear, simple melodies that I knew would translate into the style I was trying to do quite well.”
The track is a collaboration with rapper Oscar #Worldpeace.
Jerome said: “He helped me through some difficult times with his music before I even knew him, so I already felt indebted to him.”
Second albums are notoriously difficult.
In the run up to his own, Jerome said he’s trying to take a step back and appreciate the moment without becoming lost in the frantic schedule and media hype.
He said: “I’ve made a piece of art that I am very proud of and excited for people to hear.”
Virtuoso bassist and acclaimed composer Daniel Casimir appears alongside vocalist Ria Moran in a cover of Wayne Shorter’s The Soothsayer.
He said: “Wayne manages to find a way to write that can relate to everybody, even non-jazz listeners. He was definitely my gateway into playing jazz.
“Blue Note has such a massive legacy. You can’t escape it. To be a part of it in any sort of way is incredible.”
The first single from the compilation is out now. It is a reworking of Chico Hamilton’s Morning Side Of Love, performed by South London’s Ego Ella May.
The track has a deep, laid-back groove, which takes its time introducing May’s breathy, ethereal vocals.
The use of an electronic phaser effect gives the production a sci-fi-esque, futuristic feel.
Blue Note Re:imagined II offers an exciting window on jazz in the digital age, through the lens of some timeless analogue compositions.
Pictured: Kay Young, Pictures: Blue Note