Today, July 17, 2020, the famous Blue Note Records releases the ‘new’ track Just Coolin’. An album by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers recorded March 8, 1959 in Rudy Van Gelder‘s living room studio in Hackensack, New Jersey.
The cover inspired by Reid Miles may be deceiving, but Just Coolin’ has never been published before. Moreover, Just Coolin’ boasts an incredible Blakey as the head of a dream team: trumpeter Lee Morgan; the tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley; pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jymie Merritt.
Just Coolin’ release increases the number of Blakey’s recordings and this leads to a question: how much unpublished material does the Blue Notes Records have?
Art Blakey was one of the leading artists of Blue Note Records in the late 1940s and mid 1960s; under the guidance of Alfred Lion, the founder. The statistics in this regard are impressive. Blakey, in fact, recorded, for Blue Note Records, for the first time, in 1947. Then over the following two decades he recorded more than 20 albums as a leader and almost 40 as a member of various bands.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messsenger had last recorded in October 1958, impressing their name in jazz history with the album Moanin’. A masterpiece that saw Benny Golson as tenor sax. In July 1959, Blakey would replace Golson with Wayne Shorter, under Lee Morgan’s recommendation. Before this replacement, however, Hank Mobley, former founder and member of Jazz Messenger, returned until their debut At The Café Bohemia in 1955.
It is no surprise that Hank Mobley played an important role in the composition of three of the six Just Coolin’ songs: Hipsippy Blues, M&M and Just Coolin’ were written by him.
Just Coolin’: why has it remained unpublished for 61 years?
However, on April 15, 1959, Blue Note Records founder and producer Alfred Lion decided to record the band again in the legendary Birdland club in New York City. The live recording included four of the six titles recorded by Rudy Van Gelder. The Birdland session ended up replacing the studio version. Lion, in fact, decided to publish the live album in two volumes Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers At The Jazz Corner Of The World.
«In 2020, it’s nice to find Morgan, Mobley and Timmons at the top. The music had clearly stabilized during the month that separated the studio and live versions, but the charm of these six tracks retains intact»Bob Blumenthal on the cover of Just Coolin’
The reason why Lion decided to archive the session is still unknown. The probable reason is that five weeks later, when the Messengers arrived at Birdland, the material, that was new at the time, had become more familiar to the musicians and the songs were performed better. Lion, notoriously very picky, probably decided to release the album live rather than the studio session for that reason. Sixty-one years after its recording, Just Coolin’ points out, even if it wasn’t necessary, that the hard bop of this quality is immortal.