Unreleased Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers' Blue Note Just Coolin'  Coming AAA on April 24th

Not sure what's more amazing: how many recordings Alfred Lion produced for Blue Note, or how many great ones have remained in the vaults. Over the past few years, numerous unreleased Blue Notes have finally been released and none are sub-par "leftovers".

What accounts for unreleased albums like Just Coolin' sitting for decades on the shelf? Remember: BN was basically a few man operation. They had more in the can then they could comfortably release—it's not all that different from the rows of unlistened to records sitting on your shelves! What you promise to get to next week turns into next year and then not at all! Then you forget they are even there.

This Blakey date from 1959, recorded in RVG's Hackensack living room features Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Bobby Timmons, and Jymie Merritt. In this case the backstory according to Blue Note is that The Jazz Messengers' "sax chair" was in transition, between Benny Golson on the epic Moanin' recorded October of 1958 and Wayne Shorter, who joined in July of 1959 and would remain there until 1964. The group's original saxophonist Hank Mobley returned (and composed 3 or the album's 6 tracks) for this session and remained long enough for the group to record at Birdland on April 15th 1959. Lion preferred that set, releasing it later that year as a two volume ...at the Corner of the World set. According to Bob Blumenthal's liner notes, in the interim the "...music had clearly settled in...but the fire of these six tracks has a appeal of its own."

Kevin Gray cut from the original tape and it will be available on AAA 180g LP, CD and digital download on April 24th. (A "fire-swirl" colored vinyl will also be simultaneously released by Vinyl Me, Please, also cut by Kevin Gray).

garyalex's picture

Very nice. I'm eager to hear this one. Thanks Michael.

isaacrivera's picture

Neither Blue Note nor Acoustic Sounds are hyping Kevin Gray or AAA, and it costs $21.00? You sure this is cut from tape?

Michael Fremer's picture
Cut by Kevin from tape. From the press release: "Just Coolin’ can be pre-ordered now in several formats: CD, digital download, and an all-analog 180g vinyl pressing that was mastered by Kevin Gray."
volvic's picture

Stoked ! Cant wait to get it.

Smokeyjoec's picture

I just order off of amazon, thanks Michael!

AnalogJ's picture

Someone posted Cuscuna's comments on this album and, in his opinion, the playing is quite subpar. Of course, that's his opinion, albeit a well-informed one. But it may be among the reasons it wasn't released.

volvic's picture

Because, if he had it in his vaults at Mosaic, he too would have released it.

Mile High Music's picture

Just sayin'...:-)

AxiomAcoustics's picture

This Blakey session sat unreleased apparently due to it's quality. Cuscuna had this to say about it:

"Ah! if you heard it, you would think that it was five high school students trying to play like the Jazz Messengers. It is so horrible! I don’t know, all I can think of is that maybe the guy selling the drugs didn’t show up, I don’t know. Everybody’s playing very bad. Hank Mobley and Lee Morgan sound horrible. Art Blakey is not even swinging, nothing happens, it’s just really embarrassing. So that’s one that will never come out, never.

They didn’t stop, but they should have! It was terrible, it’s really terrible. No, that one will never come out, it’s just bad, bad music. Obviously they realized it too because they rerecorded everything live, you know, live at Birdland."

And there's a recent interview from June 2019 in which he refers to an unreleased Blakey session (presumably this one) as a "funeral parlor where nothing caught fire".

I'm a big Blakey/Messengers fan and will likely get this but, there seems to be other reasons for it sitting so long rather than those mentioned in the PR and this post. After all, Blakey and The Messemgers is a good seller (for the Jazz market) so you'd think it would have seen the light of day were it up to their standards. Also in this intervies Michael says there's pretty much nothing left to release. A sad notion unfortunately.