Most of this superb collection features Nat King Cole in the role that he knew first: jazz pianist with a small ensemble playing instrumental favorites with a creative swing. Recorded in Los Angeles between July 1942 and August 1947, the songs come from an expressive pianist who knows the true value of a few complementary partners on stage. He enjoyed his work as much as we enjoy listening to it. This was just slightly before the big split in jazz that created a tense bebop camp to stand in opposition to the traditionalists. Cole was neither a die-hard traditionalist nor a radical force in the new, dramatic wave. He just played good music the way everyone liked it. A guy like that has few enemies.
On this defining album we experience Cole, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey and Bill Coleman taking turns swinging the spotlight on "Riffamarole." Swing music reigns supreme. Buddy Rich and Lester Young join Cole for a creative interpretation of "I Found a New Baby" that includes an extensive drum solo with wire brushes. Willie Smith joins Cole, Red Callendar and Jackie Mills for a lovely, instrumental ballad interpretation of "The Way You Look Tonight" and an up-tempo burner (also instrumental) called "Airiness a la Nat." The latter finds all four cookin' with fire. Timeless vocal gems such as "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Sweet Lorraine" and "Route 66" are featured here in excellent form with Oscar Moore and Johnny Miller. That was one fine trio. Their instrumental numbers exhibit some of the choices Cole was making at that time. As Brian Priestley offers in the liner notes, Cole and Moore "were interested in the more modern harmonies being used in the 1940s and their sprightly single-note lines also reflected some of the stylistic choices identified with bebop."
Folks will differ with the word definitive, used to describe the 14 albums Verve and Blue Note are releasing as a series. There's no doubt, however, that they do provide an excellent foundation and that these are memories we can enjoy forever.
Track Listing: Tea For Two; Straighten Up and Fly Right; Jumpin? at Capitol; Sweet
Lorraine; It?s Only a Paper Moon; Body and Soul; Riffamarole; Sweet
Georgia Brown; The Way You Look Tonight; Airiness a la Nat; (Get Your
Kicks On) Route 66; Lester Leaps In; I Found a New Baby; Honeysuckle
Rose; Too Marvelous for Words.
Personnel: Nat King Cole- piano, vocal; Oscar Moore- guitar; Johnny Miller, Red
Callendar, John Kirby- bass; Max Roach, Jackie Mills, Buddy Rich- drums;
Bill Coleman- trumpet; Buster Bailey- clarinet; Benny Carter, Willie Smith-
alto saxophone; Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young- tenor saxophone.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.