At last! In these dark times, there's something to cheer about in the form of a previously unavailable 1959 Blue Note studio session from one of the great, but short-lived, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers line-ups, which is set for release by Blue Note as Just Coolin’ on 7 August on CD, LP and download.
The session was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studio on 8 March 1959 and featured trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Bobby Timmons, bassist Jymie Merritt and drummer Blakey. This star-packed line-up saw Mobley rejoin Blakey’s band after he had played with the Messengers from late 1954 to 1956, where he recorded the Blue Note album The Jazz Messengers at the Cafe Bohemia in November 1955.
Blue Note founder and producer Alfred Lion liked to keep Rudy Van Gelder busy and would regularly put his artists in the studio and track their new repertoire while it was fresh, often leading to more sessions than he could schedule for release at the time. A month after this session on 15 April this line-up played a date at New York’s Birdland which Lion recorded and released as Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers at the Jazz Corner of the World, after which Mobley was replaced by Wayne Shorter for the next version of the Messengers. As the live album featured four of the same tunes as the previous month’s studio session, the Just Coolin’ tracks remained in the vault until recently uncovered for this release by acclaimed reissue producer Zev Feldman who helmed this archive project.
Featuring three Mobley pieces, ‘Hipsippy Blues’, ‘Just Coolin’ and ‘M&M’, which referred to him and Morgan, the album also contains Bobby Timmons ‘Quick Trick’, Bernice Petkere’s ‘Close Your Eyes’ and an uncredited piece, ‘Jimerick’. The album captures the hard-bop idiom in a pivotal year by one of its foremost practitioners, and comes dressed in an eye-catching cover design that echoes the classic Blue Note style of the 1950s and 60s.