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Nat King Cole: After Midnight Sessions

The 1956 sessions are completed here by five previously unissued titles, one each by Stuff Smith, Willie Smith and Juan Tizol and two by Sweets Edison. The set’s overall title is a little misleading, because the performances tend to be calm, well-mannered and at leisurely tempos not altogether appropriate to the midnight hour. No doubt the label wanted the maintenance of the Cole Trio’s character so far as possible, even with the addition of the horn players and Lee Young on drums.

Most of the songs were well-chosen-“Sweet Lorraine,” “Just You, Just Me,” “You Can Depend on Me,” “I Know That You Know,” “Caravan,” etc.-and the playing is usually impeccable. Cole’s piano is outstanding in solo and accompaniment. His relationship with Willie Smith seems especially sensitive, as on the uncommon “You’re Looking at Me” and “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head,” but it is Stuff Smith who injects the strongest note of swinging passion. Their instrumental pairing on “When I Grow Too Old to Dream” is marvelous. Tizol’s theme statements and obbligati are musicianly and dignified, as always, and Edison’s agile muted trumpet was already the delight of vocalists. Guitarist John Collins has several neat solos, too.

In short, this is classy music for mellow hours, before or after midnight.

Originally Published