Two generations of Blue Note Records talent recently met during this year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival to talk about jazz music’s storied past and revitalized present. Meghan Stabile, founder and president of Revive Music Group, and Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan had a meeting of the minds following a screening of the 1985 concert film, One Night with Blue Note.
The two-hour cross-generational performances taped at The Town Hall in New York celebrated the famed avant garde jazz label originally founded in 1939 relaunching courtesy of late music executive-turned-Chairman Emeritus, Bruce Lundvall. Precisely 30 years following the concert film’s release, Stabile, who founded Revive in 2006 during her last semester at Berklee, acknowledges that she stands on the shoulders of Lundvall’s legacy.
The petite, down-to-earth concert organizer was handpicked by Blue Note’s current president, Don Was, to executive produce LPs featuring a new class of hip, genre-bending jazz musicians and performers. Those projects involve artists signed to both Revive and Blue Note.
“[Bruce] was a major force in not only the music industry but the jazz business,” says Stabile, who studied guitar at Berklee. “What Blue Note is doing is re-envisioning what jazz is today. My one and only mission is to create ways to bring people to the music and bring music to the people.”
Blue Note Records was home to innovative jazz musicians like Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, Jackie McLean, Donald Byrd, Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon. Jordan was one of the musicians featured in One Night with Blue Note.
Seated beside Stabile, the humble guitarist famous for mastering the “touch technique” on the guitar’s fretboard was the first artist signed to the revamped Blue Note roster under Lundvall’s direction. The soft-spoken instrumentalist was driving to Atlanta when he got word of Lundvall’s passing.
The musician called Lundvall “the most important exec in the music industry.” Jordan shared the story about how he got signed to Blue Note, pointing out what made Lundvall an incredible executive. “His heart was in the music,” asserts Jordan.
“He was the last of the great music execs who really had ears. He went out of his way to make me feel comfortable. He knew that if the musicians are comfortable, then the music is at its best.”
The conversation addressed musicianship. Stabile shared that two of her friends at Berklee were Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding and trumpeter Christian Scott. Stabile’s website, The Revivalist, launched in 2010 to highlight up-and-coming musicians. The site is now hosted under Okayplayer.com.
Stabile’s role at Blue Note allows her to oversee projects by drummer Otis Brown III and saxophonist Marcus Strickland. Blue Note in recent years has released critically acclaimed recordings by Grammy-winning keyboardist Robert Glasper, bassist Derrick Hodge and vocalist Jose James. She is gearing up to release Blue Note and Revive’s first compilation, Supreme Sonacy Vol. 1, featuring over 40 musicians this coming August.
“It shows the correlation between the scene and musicians that are reviving the music,” assures Stabile.
A passionate curator who firmly believes in persistence, Stabile believes the nine years she spent committed to organizing concerts and helping musicians find their respective audiences indicate that jazz is still alive and well.
“There’s a resurgence happening with a lot of great music,” says Stabile with her legs crossed. “We’ve been able to build a brand that reinvigorates the way young musicians are promoted today. These are the great, young, innovative players I was hanging out with and learning from. This ended up being a brand new scene.”
It impressed Jordan to hear about the resurgence of jazz musicianship and innovation. He made it clear that he missed the collaborative, free spirited tendencies synonymous with previous generations of jazz musicians.
One Night with Blue Note, Jordan says, represents the “Golden Era of jazz.” “Those artists were playing together in many different combinations,” says Jordan. “Right now, the scene seems fragmented to me.”
On the other hand, an optimistic Jordan, now a software developer and music therapist, offered to become available to Stabile for future recording sessions and performances with current Blue Note artists.
“Whenever I see some of the young musicians coming up, I feel hopeful for the future,” continues Jordan. “I see that this music has a strong hold in the culture that’s gonna keep on going,” continues Jordan.
Blue Note Records is still acknowledged as one of the hubs that preserves jazz music and history. Stabile feels empowered to have contributed in keeping jazz music alive and creating a safe space for creators and artists to be nurtured and appreciated. Stabile hopes going forward that she, along with both Blue Note and Revive, can continue to recognize creative energy and provide a platform to bring good music before the masses.
“It was always a question of what can we do to bring broader, larger audiences to jazz music or creative music,” says Stabile. “We harnessed these new musicians. Music was soul again.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for the Burton Wire. He is also contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.