Emma-Jean Thackray’s top 5 Blue Note Joints Ever

From shows & releases with her Walrus band, Emma-Jean Thackray has mixed jazz and electronic music, performed solo & with orchestras, adding remixes and even a straight-to-disc free jazz session to her list of achievements, continuously innovative and reflective of her personality.

Seminal jazz label Blue Note Records has just released a mammoth compilation with brand new versions of Blue Note classics from artists on the UK scene. Thackray’s contribution draws on two of Wayne Shorter’s seminal compositions, “Speak No Evil” and “Night Dreamer” and ought to be tearing up carpets and kitchen floors in the absence of dance floors at present. As such, we felt compelled to invite Emma-Jean to share some of her favourites Blue Notes! Dig into her selection below.

Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil (Speak No Evil)

Wayne has been a huge influence on me as a composer. He often writes using non-diatonic harmonic movement that was always forward-thinking for the time, but he’d tie it all together with a really strong, memorable and singable melody. Balance. You can do anything in music if you balance it out on the other side. Wayne knew all this stuff before anyone else, I think. The fact that he gave not only gave me permission to touch his legendary composition and make it my own, but encouraged me, is something so huge that I haven’t fully understood it yet. One day it’ll hit me.

Eric Dolphy – Hat And Beard (Out To Lunch!)

Whether you “get” Eric Dolphy or not, you can’t deny that this album really says something. Eric’s playing is angular, and his complex jazz language puts off those that just want to hear a “nice tune”, but he is truly one of the most technically gifted jazz musicians of the 20th century. I feel like in Out To Lunch! he had really found his voice compositionally, and what a loss for the world that he left the earth shortly after recording this album. Who knows what universes he could have taken us to.

Madlib – Stepping Into Tomorrow (Shades Of Blue)

Madlib wields a sampler like Pharaoh wields his horn. His remix of the Donald Byrd / Larry Mizell track is a perfect example of how Madlib can find the perfect drum loop and use it as the unshakeable ground beneath his feet while he tells the story. If the Mizell brothers didn’t previously convince everyone that the imagination of the producer is just as important as the instrumentalists shedding their instruments, then Madlib hammered it home with this record.

Don Cherry – Unite (Where Is Brooklyn?)

My musical mantra of “Move the body, Move the mind, Move the soul” is summed up completely in this track: forward-thinking freaky shit with a heavy belly of groove and an important message to focus their energies toward. It’s such a playful and imaginative track, but never at the expense of being powerful, meaningful or thoughtful. Special shouts to Ed Blackwell on the drums, too. He’s one of my faves and he’s so underrated.

Robert Glasper – Afro Blue (Black Radio)

My musical life used to be split and compartmentalised. My jazz musician life was playing standards or trying to get people to play my Ornette leaning compositions, my composer life was writing compositions for jazz orchestra, and my producer life was a secret, making beats at home that I thought I wasn’t allowed to show people because I was a “jazz musician / composer”. At the time some people even told me that both playing and composing was doing too much, to focus one just one thing. After hearing this record, even by this second track, I knew I had “permission” to work as I wanted. My music could be written for ensembles AND be free and crazy AND be groovy as fuck AND I could produce it AND I could mix it AND I could DJ… and noone could say anything to me ever again.

And now without further ado, check out the fantastic re:imagination of Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil” by our great friend Emma-Jean Thackray!

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