NEW YORK -- The blue neon light and hot rhythms have beckoned music lovers from around the world to West Third Street for decades. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the world-famous Blue Note, the jazz club is presenting the inaugural Blue Note Jazz Festival throughout the rest of June, featuring performances by artists like Dave Brubeck, McCoy Tyner and Nancy Wilson who have been integral to the club's history.
Jazz is more about attitude than a musical genre so the performers span all types of styles from hip-hop to salsa in nearly 100 shows across the city, from the Highline Ballroom and Town Hall to B.B. King's and the eponymous club.
Critically-acclaimed rapper Talib Kweli, who brings his supergroup Idle Warship to B.B. King's on Friday night (June 10) in a show produced by Jill Newman Productions, says that he identifies with jazz's vitality and spirit. "Jazz is hip-hop, just with different environmental influences," he tells The Huffington Post. "Miles Davis would have been a gangsta rapper. If he hadn't learned to play the horn with some ferocity, he would have been hanging with Snoop Dogg."
Kweli, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, feels that jazz has become too elitist and he wants to bring the music back to the people. "The problem with jazz, being the greatest American invention ever is that the jazz purists helped strangle it," he says. "When Miles started experimenting in the 70s and Donald Byrd was doing his jazz-funk, they were getting shitted on for that stuff. And that continues today -- when the young people are told you have to have a certain amount of experience to play and understand the music, that turns them off and they don't listen to it."
Singer Alice Smith, who brings her luscious and powerful voice to the Highline Ballroom on June 23, has a unique style that spans R&B, rock and soul but identifies with jazz's attitude. "For me, jazz is freedom of expression. I'm not a jazzhead, but I love the music and the places it goes. It speaks to me as an individual who doesn't believe in creative limits."
Jazz legend Brubeck will be backed by his regular quartet when he jams at the Blue Note next week (June 13-15) -- that group includes Michael Moore, Randy Jones and "singing" saxophonist Bobby Militello. His concerts at the club in the 70s and 80s are cherished by fans.
Jill Newman, a partner in the festival, says that she creates projects "based on artists that I love coming together -- to me, it's not jazz, it's all music. It's very important to me to make sure that the artists whom I've produced over the years, who I feel are very special to the music world, are represented."