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Complete After Midnight

Original 1956 album liner notes

“After Midnight” is the witching hour of music – the time when the old songs bring back the old memories and the time when musicians relax, play the tunes they like and in general settle into what they like to call “a good groove.”

Sometimes – if you’re lucky – you can capture this mood on record.  The actual time of day (or night) that the recording takes place doesn’t matter much.  If the atmosphere is right, the participants sympathetic to one another, and the choice of tunes felicitous, three in the afternoon can be “After Midnight” in mood.

It was like that for this album.  Capitol’s new Tower Studios set the scene and all the conditions were right.  At every session the prevailing atmosphere was “After Midnight” all the way.

This album is Nat Cole’s first with his small group in some time.  Long before he was known as a singer, Nat was one of the best of all jazz pianists, winner of Esquire Awards in 1946 and 1947, and top man in the Metronome poll in 1947, ‘48, and ‘49.  The “King” Cole Trio won numerous honors too in capturing the Down Beat poll from 1944 to 1947 and the Metronome poll from 1945 to ‘48.

The Trio is an historic group in the saga of jazz and popular music in America.  It is common today to see trios of piano, bass and guitar working in hotels and night clubs all over the country.  Did you ever stop to consider that the “King” Cole Trio set the pattern for these groups?  Until its success, no agency would book, and almost no night club would hire, such a small combination.  When Nat first went looking for an agent he was told time and again the group was too small.  “You’ve got an awkward combination there,” they’d tell him, but Nat kept on.  “I knew they didn’t know what they were talking about,” he says, and history had proved him right.

The “King” Cole Trio’s story has also been interwound with Capitol Records.  They made their first Capitol discs in 1943, when the company was a healthy youngster.  Their second disc, Straighten Up and Fly Right, was an instant and tremendous hit.  Since that time Nat “King” Cole (born Nathaniel Coles in Montgomery, Ala., in 1919, son of a Baptist preacher) has become one of the top names in the entertainment business and one of the biggest selling recording artists of all time.  One of the great jazz piano players when he began the trio, Nat has now become one of the great ballad singers of our day – known throughout the world.  And he is still a great pianist: witness his work on this album.

Nat is accompanied here by his regular group – guitarist John Collins, a veteran of the Art Tatum and Dizzy Gillespie groups and also an Esquire New Star winner; bassist Charlie Harris, who played with Lionel Hampton before joining Nat; and drummer Lee (Leonidas) Young, brother of the great Lester, who has worked extensively in motion picture studio orchestras and is also a veteran of the Lionel Hampton band.  On Caravan and Lonely One, Jack Costanzo sits in on bongos.

A guest soloist joining the group on each tune is an arrangement that adds a little extra spice to the album – just as visiting musicians might drop by at a club after midnight and play a tune with the group.  This particular sequence of guest stars fits especially well with the voice and music of Nat Cole.


Editor of “The Rhythm Section,” San Francisco Chronicle; and Down Beat columnist

Little needs to be added to Ralph Gleason’s notes to the original release of this album, but it is this: while After Midnight was widely recognized as a true classic at the time of its release, the added perspective that only time makes possible has shown us what it really is – one of those rare, perfect things that all too infrequently come our way.  An inspired idea to begin with, in execution it so fired the imaginations of all involved that they gladly gave it their best, and often more than that, with the result that the transcendent totality of its individual parts wound up exceeding their fondest expectations.

The choice of guest soloists could not have been happier, for each of the four was among the leading players of his instrument who, in addition, shared with Cole and his trio members a deep commitment to, and acknowledged excellence in the performance of that bracing, accessible form of jazz known as Swing.  And as the recorded minutes of these one-time meetings reveal, the results were as special as they were spectacular.  Listen, and you’ll marvel at what you hear: totally, authentically honest and direct and always resourcefully imaginative music-making of the highest calibers – ungimmicked, uncontrived, unaltered by overdubbing, splicing or any other after-the-fact editing – exactly as each grouping of five musicians, united in common cause, created it in the studio on these memorable August and September nights in 1956.

Of the principals three, sadly, are no longer with us – Cole, Juan Tizol and Stuff Smith – and as this album so forcibly reminds us, music is much the poorer for the loss of their distinctive, richly satisfying artistry.  All were true originals, you see.  However, the magic they created when Capitol brought them together for these informal, inspired sessions lives on in the recordings they left us which have been collected here, along with five additional selections – What Is There To Say, You Can Depend On Me, I Was A Little Too Lonely, Two Loves Have I and Candy – recorded for, but not issued in the original LP release of this enduringly classic Nat Cole album.  This along with the superior sound quality digital technology permits, make the compact-disc release of The Complete “After Midnight” Sessions a special event indeed, one to be welcomed by jazz listeners as well as Cole fans who, in light of his supple, wholly swinging and unerringly economical jazz piano mastery, might have their appreciation of his music deepened even further.  This is music that knows neither time nor allegiance to any camp or school but which, rather, in the utter perfection of its achievement, established its own incomparable standards.

– Pete Welding

Nat Cole’s countless fans have long been wishing for a new album where the great “King” Cole Trio would have free rein in digital, where Nat would once more be his own accompanist as he sang, and where he would again have a small-group setting for his memorable piano-warm, swinging, and inventive.  This album is the answer to those desires.

In addition to all the selections included in the original LP release, the Compact Disc version of this classic album contains further selections performed at the original recording sessions from which the LP was drawn, remixed to the digital format from the analog master recordings to ensure superior sound reproduction.

Here is the Trio-augmented by drums and featuring four guest soloists.

Recording Data:

Personnel on all Selections:
Nat Cole, Piano, Vocals
John Collins, Guitar
Charlie Harris, Bass
Lee Young, Drums.

(Guest Soloists)

Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, Trumpet: (August 15, 1956)
Star trumpet player of the Count Basie orchestras from 1937 to 1950 and known to musicians as “Sweets.”  He was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1915, made an international tour with Josephine Baker after leaving Basie and was one of the featured musicians in Gjon Mili’s Academy Award winning short, “Jammin’ the Blues,” and has also toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic.

Willie Smith, Alto Sax: (September 4, 1956)
One of the great stylists of the alto saxophone; born in Charleston, S.C., in 1908, and one of the original members of the Jimmy Lunceford orchestra.  He later played with Billy May, Duke Ellington and Harry James, and has toured Europe and the United States with Jazz at the Philharmonic.  He is a winner of two Esquire Awards (1945 and 1947).

Juan Tizol, Valve Trombone: (September 21, 1956)
For years one of the featured trombonists with Duke Ellington’s band; a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  He was featured with Ellington from 1929 to 1944 and then joined Harry James.  In 1951 he returned to Ellington for several years.  Tizol was one of the first valve trombone players in jazz and is the composer of two of the great jazz classics – Caravan and Perdido.

Stuff Smith
, Violin: (September 24, 1956)
One of the first and still one of the few jazz violinists.  He was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1909, and for years led his own group in Buffalo, N.Y.  In the mid-30s, he was a smash success on New York’s 52nd Street, when “Swing Street” was in its hey-day, and his records of I’se A-Muggin’ and Knock, Knock, Who’s There? were big hits.  He is also an Esquire Award winner (1946).

Selections feature the soloists indicated.

  1. Just You, Just Me (Willie Smith)

  2. Sweet Lorraine (Harry “Sweets” Edison)

  3. Sometimes I’m Happy (Stuff Smith)

  4. Caravan (Juan Tizol)

  5. It’s Only A Paper Moon (Harry “Sweets” Edison)

  6. You’re Looking At Me (Willie Smith)

  7. Lonely One (Juan Tizol)

  8. Don’t Let It Go To Your Head (Willie Smith)

  9. I Know That You Know (Stuff Smith)

10. Blame It On My Youth (Juan Tizol)

11. When I Grow Too Old To Dream (Stuff Smith)

12. Route 66 (Harry “Sweets” Edison)

13. What Is There To Say* (Juan Tizol)

14. You Can Depend On Me* (Harry “Sweets” Edison)

15. I Was A Little Too Lonely* (Willie Smith)

16. Two Loves Have I* (Stuff Smith)

17. Candy* (Harry “Sweets” Edison)

* Previously Unreleased Selections From The Original Recording Sessions.

CDP 7 48328 2
(DIDX 2285)

(Recorded August and September, 1956, in Hollywood.)

Manufactured by Capitol Records, Inc.
1750 N. Vine St.
Hollywood, California

All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.
Printed in U.S.A.

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