Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cool Blues

Cool Blues
Blue Note 84441
Recorded April 7th, 1958
Recorded Live at Small's Paradise, New York City

1. Dark Eyes
2. Groovin' At Smalls
3. Announcement by Babs Gonzales
4. A Night In Tunisia
5. Cool Blues
6. What's New
7. Small's Minor
8. Once In A While


Lou Donaldson; alto sax (1-6)
Tina Brooks; tenor sax (1-4)
Jimmy Smith; organ
Eddie McFadden; guitar
Art Blakey; drums (1-3)
Donald Bailey; drums (4-8)

This might just be the quintessential Blue Note album - the best ever if you will. Look at that line-up. Two of the greatest names in music - Jimmy Smith and Art Blakey, paired up with the hugely underrated talent of Tina Brooks on tenor, and Lou Donaldson when he was still worth a listen. Eddie McFadden, a regular name on Jimmy Smith recordings of this era, is present also and rounds out the band for this exciting live set.

Amazingly, despite the quality of the music within, this album wasn't released at the time - it had to wait until 1980 for a release (as Blue Note LT-1054). Reproduced here is the original 1980 sleeve, at least one aspect of the album that has been improved with the current issue (as part of Blue Note's 'RVG Edition' series). Also improved for the reissue is the sound - Rudy Van Gelder has done a stunning remastering job, tidying up some of the pitching problems of the 1980 release to create a sound that puts the listener right in the heart of Small's Paradise on that April night, 1958.

One thing the 1980 issue did get right was it's tracklisting - in those pre-CD days, we were more limited in album length, so only 'Dark Eyes', 'Groovin' At Smalls', 'Cool Blues' and 'A Night In Tunisia' were included. These remain the key tracks on the expanded edition - although it's interesting to hear the trio playing alone on the final two tracks (with 'Small's Minor' being particularly special owing to Jimmy's amazing soloing - he never played a better solo), without the horns something is missing.

The first 4 tracks really are where it's at. Blues with a funkiness unmatched anywhere else in Smith's Blue Note catalogue, accompanied by some of the best hard bop tenor playing there has ever been. Oh, and some bloke by the name of Art Blakey on the drumstool. It doesn't get any better than this. What's more, unusually for a Smith record of this period, his organ sounds right on the money - none of the roller rink/seaside wurlitzer vibrato that gave a schmaltzy feel to much of his Blue Note output.

Of interest is this biography and discography of Tina Brooks. Don't just trust me - read the reviews submitted to the official Blue Note 'Cool Blues' page to find out what others think of this magnificent LP.

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