The year 1959 is well-known in jazz.
Miles Davis and Kind of Blue. Dave Brubeck and Time Out. John Coltrane and Giant Steps. Charles Mingus and Mingus Ah Um. These are just a few of the many iconic jazz recordings released that year.
But there’s one that was recorded way back then and is only now getting released decades later in 2020.
This July, Blue Note Records will finally release Just Coolin’, a studio album by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers that was recorded on March 8, 1959, in Rudy Van Gelder’s living room studio in Hackensack, N.J.
The session featured a short-lived line-up with drummer Art Blakey along with trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jymie Merritt.
Worth noting is that Just Coolin’ was recorded just a few months after Moanin’, the Jazz Messengers’ seminal album that’s considered one of the archetypal albums of the hard-bop era.
The key difference here is that Just Coolin’ features Mobley — a founding member of the Jazz Messengers — returning to play sax for the band, rather than Benny Golson. (Later that year, Blakey would recruit Wayne Shorter, who became a fixture of the band until 1964.)
Just Coolin’ includes two previously unreleased compositions, including Timmons’s Quick Trick, which Blue Note has made available to stream or download ahead of the album’s release.
Five weeks after the Just Coolin’ studio session, Blue Note founder and producer Alfred Lion recorded the band again at Birdland in New York on April 15, 1959. Those recordings ended up replacing the studio versions, and later that year Blue Note released them as the two-volume live album At the Jazz Corner of the World.
“In 2020, it’s great to find more Morgan, Mobley and Timmons in their prime,” Bob Blumenthal writes in the liner notes for Just Coolin’. “The music had clearly settled in during the month that separated studio and live versions, but the fire of these six tracks has an appeal of its own.”
Just Coolin’ will be available on July 17.