No factor played a greater role in the success of Blue Note Records in the 50s and 60s than the stable of musicians the label assembled. Most of the players participated in many of one another’s projects, with respected leaders acting as valued sidemen; and the hundreds of albums that resulted helped imprint the “Blue Note sound” on the listener’s consciousness. Now, celebrating the label’s 60th anniversary, its guardians look to these examples from the past to convene a band they hope will prefigure Blue Note’s future, a sextet called New Directions that includes four young bandleaders. Twenty-five-year-old vibist Stefon Harris has stirred up the most buzz; his debut album, last year’s tuneful and intriguing A Cloud of Red Dust, revealed him to be a worthy successor to Bobby Hutcherson, who was key in shaping Blue Note’s progressive wing in the mid-60s. Tenor saxist Mark Shim, 26, got less attention for his own Blue Note debut, Mind Over Matter, though it’s an impressive reworking of modern mainstream jazz. The old man of the band is the respected altoist and M-Base theorist Greg Osby, 38, who’s integrated the sinuous angularity of hip-hop into his versatile solo style. Osby’s Banned in New York made the top-ten list of two New York Times critics last year, and one of the Big Apple’s NPR contributors all but canonized him. But it’s the prospect of hearing pianist Jason Moran–the baby of the group at 24–that has me most excited. He played on Osby’s last disc and has backed Cassandra Wilson; his upcoming debut, Soundtrack to Human Motion, shows a performer and composer of startling maturity and individuality. From his study of classical music (he’s no stranger to Bartok and uses Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin to introduce one of his own pieces) he’s already developed an abiding concern with form, and from the time he’s spent listening to Keith Jarrett he’s drawn inspiration without lapsing into imitation. Moran could quite possibly be the first great jazz pianist of the next century; you’ll be glad to say you saw him back in the day. Bassist Taurus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, son of late drummer Freddie Waits, complete the group. Friday, 10 PM and midnight, the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-0011. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Bill Douthart.