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MY OTHER PASSION: VINTAGE JAZZ

What’s the point of having a website if I can’t indulge myself now and then? Jazz is as vital to me as movies. A boxed CD set came my way late last year and having listened to it in its entirety I feel impelled to spread the word about it.

NAT KING COLE HITTIN’ THE RAMP: THE EARLY YEARS 1936-1943 (Resonance Records)

Nat King Cole enjoyed a long career as a hit recording artist, but before his silky vocals commanded the world’s attention he thrived as a pianist and “jive” singer. I’ve always liked the King Cole Trio, but the act is not nearly as famous as Cole became when he went solo in the 1940s. This lovingly assembled CD set is not for beginners, as its strengths are rarity and thoroughness. There are mediocre tracks alongside the gems and some songs appear in multiple versions.

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But I don’t mean to offer faint praise for such an ambitious endeavor: I listened to all seven discs in my car (which is old enough to have a CD player) and loved them. The King Cole Trio’s jazzy unison-vocals on uptempo numbers like “Mutiny in the Nursery” are hard to resist; their instrumentals on the likes of “The Blue Danube” and “I Know that You Know” show off Cole’s nimble-fingered pianistics and the equally impressive single-note work of guitarist Oscar Moore. (Wesley Prince is the bassist and third member of the singing trio.)

For completists there are also samples of the Trio backing generic pop vocalists and, more profitably, such jazz greats as Lester Young and Dexter Gordon.

Best of all, the handsomely packaged CDs are accompanied by a booklet featuring interviews with notable musicians who knew or were influenced by Cole, along with annotations by jazz wordsmith Will Friedwald (whose book Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole is coming in May from Oxford University Press). He also co-produced this commemorative boxed set.

Not so incidentally, Zev Feldman and George Klabin’s Resonance Records also offers this set in LP form. You can learn more at www.resonancerecords.com and watch a trailer about the Nat Cole set here: https://resonancerecords.org/shop/nat-king-cole-hittin-the-ramp-the-early-years-1936-1943/

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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