One of the greatest challenges facing any record label is getting to know its audience. That's where Half Note Records has always had an advantage. As the recording division of New York City's landmark Blue Note Jazz Club and its affiliated venues across the country and around the world, Half Note sees its audience reacting night after night to the artists - and sometimes to the very performances - that it supports.
"The overall intention of establishing Half Note was to document and capture the zeitgeist of New York jazz," explains Jeff Levenson, Executive Vice-President of Half Note Records. "Half Note is different than other independent jazz labels because its interface exists within a network of performance venues. The label was born out of the desire to document vital musics that pass through the club or, in fact, might not exist anywhere except on the stage of the Blue Note. You have a symbiosis between the club and the label. Among record labels, there is no parallel, no precedent, for that."
Over the course of the next year, Half Note will add to its estimable 16-year legacy with five new releases spotlighting its impressive stylistic diversity. That line-up kicks off on September 16, with two new offerings by artists with long histories at Half Note: pianist Kenny Werner and trombonist Conrad Herwig.
KENNY WERNER - COALITION
"Perfection, 360 degrees of soul and science in one human being.
My kind of musician." - Quincy Jones
Coalition will mark Kenny Werner's eighth release for Half Note, a catalog that includes his masterwork No Beginning No End, which was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010. A consummate "musician's musician," Werner may be best known for his hugely influential instructional guide on improvisation, Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within, original published in 1996. While countless student musicians have benefited from the book's teachings, Levenson recounts an encounter where he overheard musical geniuses Quincy Jones and Herb Alpert excitedly discussing its merits.
Coalition is the title of the studio album and Werner's new quintet. It was formed out of the pianist's desire to work with Benin-born guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke and Puerto Rican alto saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón, two leaders of the younger generation of multi-cultural jazz artists. He also enlisted Danish saxophonist Benjamin Koppel and Hungarian bassist Ferenc Nemeth to create some of the most forward-thinking music of his career, a set of music alive with diverse rhythms and wide-ranging approaches featuring collaborative contributions from the group.
"Coalition is indicative of Werner's approach," Levenson says. "In each of his projects he attempts to place himself in a setting that will expand his reach, provide a challenge and create a context that will help him develop as an artist."
Kenny Werner · Coalition
Half Note Records · Release Date: September 16, 2014
"Take classic jazz tunes. Gather some of the best Afro-Cuban jazz musicians available. Rearrange carefully. Play with gusto. It's been Conrad Herwig's formula for more than a decade, and it still serves the trombonist well." - National Public Radio
Since the release of his tribute to John Coltrane in 1996, Conrad Herwig's The Latin Side of... recordings have become one of the most revered collections in jazz, focused on reimagining the compositions of seminal jazz musicians', showcasing them within the framework of an Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean perspective. Born in Oklahoma and reared in Hawaii, Herwig started his career under the tutelage of Clark Terry, Cab Calloway and Buddy Rich, and honed his passion for Latin Jazz with his long and ongoing association alongside legendary pianist Eddie Palmieri.
Those influences can be heard throughout his Latin Side... albums. The Latin Side of Joe Henderson is the sixth entry in the series and the fifth to be released on Half Note, following tributes to Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and two albums dedicated to Miles Davis. On this latest album, special guest Joe Lovano joins Herwig's stellar ensemble paying homage to one of the greatest of all tenor men.
Conrad Herwig · The Latin Side of Joe Henderson featuring Joe Lovano
Half Note Records · Release Date: September 16, 2014
The 2015 release slate will begin with a live recording of Latin Jazz trumpeter Jerry Gonzalez & The Fort Apache Band, featuring guest saxophonist Miguel Zenón. That disc will be followed by two more live recordings: a saxophone summit convened by Philadelphia master Odean Pope with James Carter and Pharoah Sanders, anchored by pianist Geri Allen, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts (scheduled to perform September 9-14 at Blue Note Jazz Club); and the next Latin Side... entry, dedicated to the work of the late Horace Silver, with guest artist Michel Camilo (scheduled to perform August 19-24 at Blue Note).
The success of Half Note over the last 16-plus years has included a 2001 Latin GRAMMY® Award for Paquito D'Rivera's Live at the Blue Note, along with 12 other GRAMMY® nominations. But it's also evident in the label's impressive roster, which mixes rising-star artists with jazz giants - names Levenson refers to as "Mount Rushmore" figures: McCoy Tyner, Lee Konitz, Eddie Palmieri and Ron Carter, among them.
Founded in 1998, Half Note was originally intended to merely document performances. But when Levenson took the helm in 2001, he aimed to curate the label more precisely, with an ear towards assembling groups as stage entities worthy of capture.
A veteran label executive, producer, educator and journalist whose career has included stints with Sony, Warner Bros., Downbeat, Billboard and The New School for Social Research, Levenson currently chairs the National Jazz Committee for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and serves as Board Governor for its New York Chapter. In addition, he produces the annual Thelonious Monk Instrumental Competition, which has introduced the world to several of jazz's most innovative young artists. He has produced and/or supervised nine GRAMMY® albums -- two winners and 11 nominees. His tenure at Half Note has included recordings by a wide array of artists, including Elvin Jones, Donald Harrison, Jeff "Tain" Watts, James Carter, Arturo Sandoval, Odean Pope, Joe Lovano, Omar Sosa and Avishai Cohen.
ABOUT BLUE NOTE ENTERTAINMENT GROUP
Blue Note Entertainment Group, founded in 1981 by Danny Bensusan, is a multi-faceted entertainment company that owns and operates New York's Blue Note Jazz Club, B.B. King Blues Club, and the Highline Ballroom; The Howard Theatre (Washington D.C.); and Blue Note Jazz Clubs Worldwide (Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan and Milan, Italy). The company also programs the Regattabar Jazz Club (Cambridge, MA). Blue Note Entertainment Group presents shows outside of its club network. The annual Blue Note Jazz Festival was established in 2011 and has since grown to feature over 150 concerts in more than 15 venues throughout New York City each June. The company has also been involved in various festivals on Governors Island including Rock the Bells and the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, as well as All Points West Music & Arts Festival, and Governors Ball, among others. Subsidiaries of Blue Note Entertainment Group include the GRAMMY®-nominated record label Half Note Records, whose catalogue includes over fifty titles recorded live at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club, as well as Blue Note Management Group and Blue Note Media Group.