Blue Note Records’ Somethin’ Else Jazz Club made its debut at the 2007 Bonnaroo Music And Arts Festival last week in Manchester, Tennessee, and was an absolute hit with both fans and critics. The 500-capacity club—which was designed to resemble a downtown New York City jazz club, complete with table seating, wait service, air conditioning, and walls decorated with classic Blue Note photography and album artwork—was greeted with long lines that brought an estimated 10,000 listeners through its doors over the course of the festival.
Enthusiastic audiences were treated to a wide variety of stand-out performances that were a testament to the vitality of jazz and its appeal to a wider audience. The opening night featured a stunning solo set by Blue Note’s newest signing, African guitarist Lionel Loueke, and a smoking soul jazz performance by two Blue Note legends, saxophonist Lou Donaldson and Hammond B3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, which nearly burned the tent down.
Other highlights included two of the finest piano trios around led by Jacky Terrasson and Robert Glasper, the funky explorations of Mago featuring keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Billy Martin, and a driving late-night set by The Philadelphia Experiment which featured drummer Ahmir Thompson from The Roots, bassist Christian McBride, and keyboardist Uri Caine, as well as a surprise guest appearance by the actress Gina Gershon who contributed a thrilling Jew’s harp solo.
Check out what Jon Pareles had to say about Somethin’ Else in The New York Times:
“This year’s Bonnaroo had a new addition: a jazz stage set up like a club, in a dark room with tables and wait service. It was constantly packed, with a line, for music primarily from the roster of Blue Note Records, which sponsored the stage in a wise marketing move. Since Bonnaroo’s audience prizes virtuosity and nuance, why not offer them in the highly evolved form of jazz? Younger musicians like the pianist Robert Glasper are already meeting contemporary music on their own terms; he played one piece based on a hip-hop groove from J Dilla, and another that mingled Radiohead’s ‘Everything in the Right Place’ with Herbie Hancock’s ‘Maiden Voyage.’ Older musicians, like the 80-year-old saxophonist Lou Donaldson and the organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, didn’t need updating at all.”
Reid Davis also posted a rave review on his PASTE magazine blog:
“Bonnaroo may have taken some zigs and zags from its jamband roots, but it still hosts plenty of folks who dig the extended jam, the righteous solo. Why it took so long for straight-up jazz to get here I have no idea, but the idea is incredibly logical, and almost inevitable. And leave it to Blue Note Records to do it up right, with an air-conditioned, tent-housed club called ‘Somethin’ Else’—the name both a nod to Cannonball Adderley’s monumental album and a nice fit with the local hierarchy of This, That and The Other... Bottom line: a terrific idea.”