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Nat 'King' Cole's music is the perfect combination of romantic charm and musical invention. Cole is renowned for his big production numbers and pop hits such as "Stardust", but he was also an accomplished and unique jazz pianist and excelled in a small-group setting. "After Midnight's" album cover states that this is a 'trio' release. However, Cole is actually paired up with his trio plus five guest soloists (saxophone, trombone, trumpet, percussion, and violin). The dubious credits don't matter much though. This is precious music and, without a doubt, one of Cole's best records. Included here are wonderful and intimate renditions of Cole favorites "Sweet Lorraine", "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66", and many others. Trombonist Juan Tizol performs a beautiful version of his Afro-Cuban tune "Caravan", and Cole and violinist Stuff Smith trade some hot licks on the up-tempo "I Know That You Know". For anybody looking to understand the depth and breadth of Cole's jazz roots, this disc is an excellent point of departure. One of the unfortunate consequences of Nat 'King' Cole's exquisite career as a vocalist is that many fans have forgotten what an exceptional pianist he was. Moreover, Cole influenced pianists as chronologically and geographically divergent as Oscar Peterson, Brazil's Tania Maria, and Diana Krall. "After Midnight" serves up equal doses of Cole's vocals and piano playing. From the lush beauty of "What Is There To Say" to the mid-tempo swing of "When I Grown Too Old To Dream" to the lightening quick "I Know That You Know", Cole confirms his place in both Popular Vocalist history and Jazz Piano history as well. In a recording featuring such luminaries as Harry 'Sweets' Edison on trumpet, and the often forgotten violinist Stuff Smith, "After Midnight" is the perfect offering for any fan of the Nat 'King' Cole Trio as well as those fans who are more familiar with Cole as a vocalist. A perfect blend is found here. L. J. Allen

Recording: August and September 1956 at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, California in mono

Production: Lee Gillette


"After Midnight" (Complete Sessions): Nat 'King' Cole (p, voc); Willie Smith (as); Harry 'Sweets' Edison (tp); Juan Tizol (tb); John Collins (g); Charlie Harris (b); Stuff Smith (v); Lee Young (dr); Jack Costanza (cga, bgo)

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