Commissioned by the London Chamber Group for the Medusa Saxophone Quartet with funds from the Performing Right Society Foundation
The title, as any jazz aficionado will recognise, is the first New York City corporate address taken by Alfred Lion when he set up his fledgling record label, 'Blue Note Records', in 1939. Immortalised, first on the labels of Blue Note's 78 rpm shellac records then on the back cover of numerous vinyl LP releases, before the company moved to their West 63rd Street address, the title is at once fresh, nostalgic and, perhaps above all, somewhat melancholy. The rise and fall of possibly the most influential jazz label of the twentieth century has in itself a musical congruence, particularly when looking at its vinyl output.
This composition, based on a family of instruments, all of which are used to headline records on the Blue Note label, does not aim to chart the history of a company, nor in fact to emulate sounds heard on the five hundred or so discs released in its lifetime. It is a through-composed work, containing elements of improvisation, yearning for the melancholy feeling that the title suggests to any jazz-lover. There is only one direct tie-in to the Blue Note repertory, and that is in the choice of instruments which start and end the work. A quiet, lilting soprano saxophone produces the first notes, acting a tribute to Sydney Bechet (the artist of Blue Note's first vinyl release), while in homage to the last ever vinyl release on the label proper, a tenor saxophone begrudgingly dies way at the end, with a poignant nod to Hank Mobley.