Lionel Loueke

NPR

Almost every era of jazz has its resident Blue Note crew: artists who embody the beating heart of that label’s sound.

NPR

There’s an emblematic photograph of Herbie Hancock on the back cover of his album Sunlight, which he began recording 40 years ago this month. He’s depicted against a red backdrop with a Sennheiser vocoder headset on his cranium, which is bowed in deep focus.

He’s also totally boxed in by his keyboards. The LP insert sleeve includes a diagram to help identify them by name: Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer, Sequential Circuits Prophet Synthesizer, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Micro-Moog, Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog. (This is not a complete tally.)

Bernard Benant

Tony Allen, “Wolf Eats Wolf”

Tony Allen, the great Nigerian drummer, made his Blue Note Records debut this spring with A Tribute to Art Blakey, a digital EP. Now Allen, the reigning architect of Afrobeat, has announced a full-length album on the label, The Source. It’s due out on Sept. 8, and you can listen now to a hypnotic lead single, “Wolf Eats Wolf.”

Justin Lane

It was a trip to West Africa that set the career trajectory for Daniel Freedman. A drummer-bandleader born and raised in New York City, Freedman has a deep affinity for all things Afrobeat. But even though he's studied with djembe musicians and Gnawa masters, those traditions don't explicitly inform the music he makes. His African influences, Freedman suggests, are much more ambiguous and subtle.