Album Details

June 29, 2010
Hip-O Select
Jazz, Jazz Instrument, Traditional Pop, Piano Jazz, Jive, Vocal Jazz, Swing, Modern Jazz Vocals

Album Review

Nat King Cole spent virtually all of his career with a contract from Capitol. (The classic Capitol Records tower, near Sunset & Vine in Hollywood, wasn't known as "the house that Nat built" for nothing.) But his earliest sides appeared on a range of labels, including, but not limited to, Decca, Keynote, and Mercury. (Aside from what's heard here, the King Cole Trio recorded dozens of effervescent songs between 1938 and 1941 for transcription services, music that has only rarely been commercially issued.) Riffin': The Decca, JATP, Keynote and Mercury Recordings puts a wrapper around a fair share of his non-Capitol sides, some of them early (Decca) and some of them live (JATP) and some of them as a sideman (complete with hilarious noms de plume) for Lester Young and others (Mercury). Best are the early King Cole Trio sides, from 1940-1941, when the group was still writing songs and delivering them with the energy and flair of a club act, making mini-masterpieces from off-the-cuff songs "I Like to Riff," "Call the Police," and "Stop! The Red Light's On." Novelties for sure, but novelties with tight group interplay that showed what small-group swing could do, along with bouncing solos from Cole's piano that earned him fame and influence far beyond what the singer of "Unforgettable" could have garnered. Also well-deserving of attention is his 1946 session with Lester Young (and drummer Buddy Rich) for a Mercury album that sees him giving Young the best accompaniment he would ever receive. The JATP sides cover a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert from 1944 where Cole's piano was heard (faintly) with a jam session including flamboyant, roof-raising solos from Les Paul, Illinois Jacquet, and J.J. Johnson, among others. (Cole's modesty in these circumstances is humbling.) This three-disc wrap-up isn't a unified set -- despite the material ranging only from 1936 to 1944 -- but it captures His Majesty in a range of circumstances; quite fitting for the man esteemed by jazz fans as one of the greatest pianists of all time, and by vocal fans as likely the best interpreter of popular song in the 20th century.
John Bush, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Sweet Lorraine
  2. This Side Up
  3. Honeysuckle Rose
  4. Gone with the Draft
  5. Gone with the Draft [Alternate Take] [Alternate Take]
  6. Babs
  7. Early Morning Blues
  8. Scotchin' with the Soda
  9. Slow Down
  10. This Will Make You Laugh
  11. Hit the Ramp
  12. I Like to Riff
  13. Stop! the Red Light's On
  14. Call the Police
  15. Are You fer It?
  16. That Ain't Right
  17. Hit That Jive, Jack
  18. Honey Hush
  19. Thunder
  20. Stompin' at the Panama
  21. (Bedtime) Sleep, Baby Sleep
  22. Honey Hush [Alternate Take] [Alternate Take]
  23. The Way You Look Tonight
  24. Airiness a la Nat
  25. I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me
  26. My Old Flame
  27. Lester Leaps In [Live]
  28. Tea for Two [Live]
  29. Blues (First B-flat Blues): Blues, Pt. 1/Blues, Pt. 2/Blues, Pt. 3 [Liv
  30. Body and Soul [Live]
  31. Sweet Lorraine [Live]
  32. The Man I Love [Live]
  33. I've Found a New Baby [Live]
  34. Rosetta [Live]
  35. Bugle Call Rag [Live]
  36. One O'Clock Jump [Live]
  37. Oh, Lady, Be Good [Live]
  38. I've Found a New Baby
  39. Sweet Lorraine
  40. Rosetta
  41. I Blowed and Gone
  42. I Cover the Waterfront
  43. Somebody Loves Me
  44. I've Found a New Baby
  45. Back to the Land
  46. I Want to Be Happy
  47. Peg O'My Heart
  48. Mean to Me
  49. The Man I Love
  50. I Cover the Waterfront [Alternate Take] [Alternate Take][Version]
  51. The Way You Look Tonight [Alternate Take] [Alternate Take]
  52. Airiness a la Nat [Alternate Take] [Alternate Take]
  53. I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me [Alternate Take] [Alternate
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