Unreleased Blue Note Title Just Coolin'  In the Can For 60 Years Finally Surfaces

This previously unreleased March 9th 1959 session recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack home studio is a “must have” for Blue Note “completists”, especially for those with an affinity for car and plane crash videos. If you are just getting into the rich Blue Note catalog, your money is best spent elsewhere as this session, despite the stellar group, often sounds listless and forced. Grooves get glossed over in favor of speed.

Okay, that’s harsh, but there’s a reason why Alfred Lion chose to not release this session 60 years ago and it’s not because it got lost under a bed and was discovered by one of the musician’s children.

This short-lived edition of The Jazz Messengers featuring Lee Morgan, a returning Hank Mobley, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt and Blakey, recorded a month after this session longer and far superior live club versions of four of the six tunes here, which Blue Note did release on 2 LPs as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers at the Jazz Corner of the World.

On the Mobley-penned opener “Hipsippy Blues”, which has a familiar and comforting Blue Note “vibe” that annotator Bob Blumenthal describes as having a Blakey “meat-and-potatoes shuffle groove”, even the usually high energy drummer sounds listless. Morgan’s first solo falls flat. Early on, Blakey gives him what sounds to me like a 'rat-tat-tat' wake-up call but to no avail.

Morgan pushes harder and gets more going on “Close Your Eyes” but that tune too sounds like its huffing and puffing for air despite a nice Timmons solo and one from Merritt at the song’s conclusion.

Ensemble entries and exits are tentative giving much of the goings on a ragged not pleasingly “loose” feel. That said, these are, as Blumenthal says, musicians “in their prime” so when Timmons cuts loose on the breakneck blues “Jimerick” there’s plenty to enjoy, especially since the tune was not reprised on the live album.

Same with Timmons’ “Quick Trick", which opens side two, but while these musicians are “in their prime”, you don’t have to be a musicologist to feel (if not being able to analyze why) a considerable downdraft to the entire session despite some bright spots.

As Blumenthal (who, for his notes should get a special commendation from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy) writes, “If the Birdland recordings overshadowed this studio session….”. They did and do, though the closer, “Just Coolin’”, is without comparison to the somewhat shorter live version, a fine overall effort.

Hearing greats struggling and/or playing with less than full bodied commitment and inspiration can be painful, but it also is a great reminder that what sounds so easy and free on the great Blue Note records (especially here for me, Lee Morgan’s repeated solo deflations) is anything but!

The sound is late Hackensack RVG, which means good instrumental hard left/right separation, pleasant, close miked timbres and a somewhat muffled center stage piano. Four months later Van Gelder would move into his Englewood Cliffs studio and continue recording many of the greatest recordings in jazz history though not every musician liked what Rudy did and he wasn’t a fan of the LPs he cut from these tapes! Nice RTI pressing here with Kevin Gray delivering what's on the tape, not what might be needed to make it playable on poorly performing turntables!

Music Direct Buy It Now

afarooqui's picture

For saving me some hard earned money !

Michael Fremer's picture
I can't say "hard earned". All I do is listen to music (lol)
jazz's picture

Rare that straight words are written in a case like that. You could copy the text for several other not originally released Blue Notes people bought from the Music Matters and other labels catalogs. They are also mastered perfectly by Kevin Gray, but that doesn’t make the music any better.

I personally think, even several of the famous but repetitive blowing sessions on Blue Note are dispensable.

Montpier's picture

Looked through the Music Matters releases and pretty sure all those albums had been originally issued by Alfred Lion.

Long-time record producer and Mosaic label honcho Michael Cuscuna is the acknowledged expert on the Blue Note tape vaults and uncovered many gems that went unreleased for various reasons (among them Andrew Hill's 'Passing Ships' session which has never been released on vinyl -- hint for Joe Harley!).

But not all of them were gems and even for his exhaustive "Complete Blue Note" 1960 Jazz Messengers box Cuscuna did not include takes that had not been designated as a possible "alternate" in the original session notes. Cuscuna issued quite a few unreleased Blue Note dates starting in the late 70's and I suspect that 'Just Coolin' was among those he took a pass.

Listened to a download and agree with MF; this is really for completists only and there's a dozen or more pretty amazing Blakey albums to check out before this one. But hey, if you like it you'll be even more blown away listening to one of the great ones; I've always been partial to the early 60's Wayner Shorter/Freddie Hubbard/Curtis Fuller/Cesar Walton line-up.

Montpier's picture

Not sure if it was me or overzealous spellcheck...

volvic's picture

I hope I don't feel the same way as you do Michael, he's never put a wrong foot over his long career. At least the albums I have of him are solid.

lcater1's picture

I must disagree with you on this album. It made me smile and tap my foot through out. I do agree the live sessions might be better but try finding good copies! I foolishly sold mine some time back and regret it every day. This is still the best Blakey group.............

isaacrivera's picture

Has is one of the BN80 reissue titles, AAA, in two volumes.


shawnwes's picture

I picked up a copy the other day and quite like it. The sound is pretty middle of the road for an RVG and Kevin Gray gave it his best I'm sure. The music isn't lacking for anything but it's not inspired. It's nice to have.

Fsonicsmith's picture

and like lcater1, I disagree. I found it to be classic Art Blakey and Lee Morgan. In fact, the only aspect of your comments I agree is that the piano center-stage sounds a bit muffled.
This Mike is not good journalism on your part and is instead a classic case of using a snippet of a full quote out of context in order to support a view you wish to take;

"As Blumenthal (who, for his notes should get a special commendation from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy) writes, “If the Birdland recordings overshadowed this studio session….”. They did and do, though the closer, “Just Coolin’”, is without comparison to the somewhat shorter live version, a fine overall effort."

C'mon. You're better than that.
This is a total gem compared to the way-overhyped polished turd "Both Directions at Once". Perhaps that experience has tainted your enthusiasm for late issues. "And affinity for car and plane crash videos"? What the hell. This reminds me of your recent "Numbskull power cord deniers" comment. Over-sensationalist. Are you crying out for help Mike? I don't get it.

lcater1's picture

The Blakey albums I refer to are "At The Jazz Corner of The World" not Meet Me..............
thanks anyway.

Glotz's picture

I literally wrestled with purchasing this via Music Direct this morning. I held off in favor of completing my (The) Orb collection and I will definitely dig deeper into the Blue Note catalog. Your jazz performance insights are invaluable here (as well as your unwavering candor on sound)!

Have you or Malachi (or the other newbies) spent any time listening to more recent Orb recordings on vinyl? They are quite well-recorded, often reflective, mesmerizing and their idea of suggesting elements of nostalgic sound/time is just unique in music, IMO. The subtlety in wielding their unique elements only serves to deepen their mystery over repeated listenings.

Ref- No Sounds Out of Bounds, COW / Chill Out World, Moonbuilding 2703 (and to a lesser extent but still fun as hell) Abolition of the Royal Familia. (Deluxe has more impact with additional mixes.)

Slammintone's picture

If this album compares poorly to the above title then I still might be interested because frankly, most albums compare poorly to Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers At The Corner Of The World. The sound and atmosphere and playing on that album are as good as it got back then, IMHO.