Don’t be fooled by its title — Cool simmers with intense improvisation. The extensive club work by this distinguished group shows throughout an intuitive set of jazz standards. Borrowing its title from “West Side Story,” Cool is. Inspired by Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, and Wes Montgomery, the Trio pays tribute while updating the vintage vibe with all original arrangements, including three Al Cohn compositions reworked by son Joe.
01 Take Four (03:58)
02 Nobody Else But Me (03:07)
03 Cool (05:34)
04 Jitterbug Waltz (04:58)
05 For Real (05:07)
06 Bop Kick (04:24)
07 The Bluebird (05:44)
08 If I Only Had A Brain (03:53)
09 C Jam Blues (03:52)
10 I Loves You, Porgy (04:43)
11 Shall We Dance (04:43)
12 Two Funky People (04:43)
13 You And Me (04:58)
Jay LEONHART, bass & vocals
Ted ROSENTHAL, piano
Joe COHN, guitar
My first musical heroes were Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, and Herb Ellis. The magnificent manner in which they played and swung was eye-opening for me as a teenager back in 1954 and is still astounding to me fifty years later. They helped me decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had already begun playing the bass and I decided I would try to make the bass sound as rich and full and gorgeous as Ray Brown made it sound – so deep, in tune, buoyant, and vital to the music at all times.
Pianist Ted Rosenthal grew up listening to Oscar and the many pianists who have evolved since Oscar’s early days – pianists like Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, McCoy, and Errol Garner. Ted’s conception and technique show a lot of breadth and originality, and he’s not afraid to make the piano swing like OP.
Guitarist Joe Cohn did not have Herb Ellis as one of his major influences as he grew up but still he did have the great time players and guitar soloists in mind. Joe is a brilliant and most original player. He plays deeply musical accompanying lines and spins out remarkable solos as you will hear all through “Cool,” our first CD together as a trio.
I’m afraid that “Cool” isn’t nearly as laid back as the title might imply. The music does get hot inside this CD from time to time. The opening track, “Take Four,” blows our cover immediately. This straight-ahead swinger by Joe Cohn’s father, Al Cohn, puts the trio on a slightly hotter track from the outset. Take note of Joe and Ted’s little unison figure behind the bass solo. It’s a series of eight note runs in 5/8 time phrases that they came up with in rehearsal one day.
Track two, “If I only Had a Brain,” was arranged by Ted Rosenthal. His new harmonies make the song even more interesting as a jazz piece. I like the bass stating the melody on the last chorus - that big, glorious hunk of wood saying if it only had a brain. Or maybe it’s talking about me.
Track three is the Bernstein and Sondheim masterpiece “Cool.” I started singing this song when people started asking me to sing another Bernstein song after my original piece “Me and Lenny,” an account of a plane ride with Bernstein himself. I try to explain that Lenny didn’t write my song, but to no avail. If you don’t know “Me and Lenny” I strongly suggest you download it from the Internet at once, lest your collection be woefully incomplete.
“Nobody Else But Me” is another Ted Rosenthal arrangement, a great little track that you could actually dance to if you wanted to, and if you’re over fifty.
“Shall We Dance” is a classic contribution by Rodgers and Hammerstein from the musical South Pacific. Ted arranged it for the trio so that we could all dance the night away.
“My Bluebird” is Tommy Flanagan’s “Beyond the Bluebird” with a lyric that I wrote with Tommy’s permission. “Beyond the Bluebird” was originally written to commemorate the legendary jazz club in Detroit, The Bluebird Inn. At the Bluebird Inn, Tommy played with other future jazz giants like Paul Chambers, Kenny Burrell and Elvin Jones back when they were all young pups. Tommy moved on from the Bluebird Inn in 1956. In “My Bluebird” I wrote a lyric about a friendly bluebird that tells me stuff I need to hear. I may write another lyric to the song about the actual Bluebird Inn and Tommy’s time there. Tommy was one of the most beloved musicians in Jazz. He passed away in November of 2001.
Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” is classic piece of American music that Joe and Ted play beautifully together. I have been playing “Jitterbug Waltz” with John Bunch and Bucky Pizzarelli in their trio for years and have come to love the song. When it came time for the bass solo on this track, the bow just jumped into my hands, and I couldn’t say no.
You need some serious chutzpah going to dare to re-harmonize a Duke Ellington piece of music, but that’s what we do with “C Jam Blues.” I hope Duke isn’t upset. And we do get around to the plain old wonderful blues changes after a while. To me that’s what jazz is about anyway - blues changes and “Body and Soul.”
Joe taught us “You and Me,” another Al Cohn composition that ultimately gets played over the changes to “Tea For Two.” When we’re trying to find the appropriate tempo for “You and Me” in our performances we usually tell Joe to count it off - “he’s your father.”
“I Loves You Porgy” gives me a chance to wander out of tempo through a Gershwin classic, accompanied alternately by Ted and Joe. This track is cool.
Ted contributed the arrangement for “Bopkick” from the Nat King Cole Trio. You need to be very comfortable with the cycle of fifths starting on F sharp to survive a chorus in this song.
“For Real” is a song I wrote first and put words to later. Usually I write the words first and find the music. I could have written an easier melody, I guess. With all the diminished runs, the pitches are a challenge. If you want to try to sing it, go to www.jayleonhart.com and I’ll e-mail you the music just for asking.
“Two Funky People” is another Al Cohn contribution to our CD. I have wonderful memories of Al and Zoot Sims playing deep into the night at The Half Note down on Spring Street in New York during the fifties and the sixties - Zoot dropping his empty shot glass into the extended hand of the bartender down below the bandstand. The bartender wouldn’t even look - just stick his hand out and Zoot would hit it with perfect aim. I was in my early twenties and would go to see Zoot and Al and hope that I would get to play that kind of music for a living. I think they were the two funky people this song is about. I want to be a funky person when I grow up (but I’ll have to pass up the shot glass routine).
— Jay Leonhart, August 2004
"I really enjoyed Cool, comprised of mostly heartfelt standards with quite a few interesting arrangements. This record gets a very high WBGO factor due to the clear connection to the past done in a moderately unique way. The ethos of the trio clearly is with straight, swinging music, very tightly arranged, with the players developing a group personality. They are not a mere copy of the OPT, or, for that matter the Nat King Cole Trio (see “Bop Kick”), but have internalized the feel of the drummerless trio and swing like crazy, even when one player is soloing."
— Cadence, July 2005
"Jay's vocals are about as "hep-cat" as you'll hear these days… this group is tight! In fact, the compositions are SO well integrated that you often don't realize it's a trio… sounds kind of like ONE player is doin' it all. Cohn's guitar is some of the best jazz you'll hear this year, or next, or… The thing that's so "cool" about Mr. Leonhart's music, best reflected on his original, "For Real" (my favorite cut on the album) is that they recall an era where jazz was light-hearted, yet spirit filled… & help the listener to reclaim a little bit of that wonderful time. This CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with a strong urging that you rush right out & buy this one."
— Improvijazzation Nation, 2005
"…appealing tracks on an album awash in colorful arrangements. …Leonhart’s trio, featuring Ted Rosenthal on piano and Joe Cohn on guitar, is a tight ensemble that calls to mind the classic piano-guitar-bass lineup of Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis and Ray Brown. …“If I Only Had A Brain" is playful and unpredictable… “I Loves You, Porgy”, gentle and understated, with Leonhart gracefully soloing throughout."
— All About Jazz - New York, February 2005
[four stars] "To the distinguished jazz pedigree of bass-piano-guitar groups can be added bassist Leonhart's trio with pianist Ted Rosenthal and guitarist Joe Cohn. It's a fluent, hand-in-glove working band that wears its individual and collective virtuosity with a light touch. …The trio swings hard and the internal balance is impeccable; both Leonhart and Cohn are in fine form, but the star of the show, in a beguilingly tasty example of the genre, is Rosenthal, who somehow raises the bar every time he solos."
— The Irish Times, January 2005
[three and a half stars] "This is the initial recording effort for this trio, and the enthusiasm and musicality displayed here is most welcome indeed."
— JazzScene, January 2005
"Cool (Sons of Sound) works precisely because the Jay Leonhart Trio does manage within the framework of revisiting classic works to do them with dashes of personality and flair. …often exciting solo sections… polished and disciplined pros who still find ways to sneak in clever licks or quick turns within the set musical situations. …this is a solid mainstream/repertory date."
— Nashville City Paper, January 2005
[four stars] "Jay Leonhart drew inspiration early in his musical life from the Oscar Peterson Trio (with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis), which serves somewhat as a model for this trio date. With pianist Ted Rosenthal and guitarist Joe Cohn, they put together a delightful set, sharing the solo spotlight and playing superb backgrounds for one another… "Take Four" serves as a snappy opener while featuring some of the best solos of the date in this neglected bop masterpiece… thoroughly enjoyable CD."
— All Music Guide, December 2004
"The Jay Leonhart Trio gives great cool sounds with the release of Cool. It is a nice listening journey the jazz audience will relate to, and enjoy… The keynote to this fine collection is the exceptional solo and group work, each song a showcase for the musicians. This is one of the best trios around… Enjoyable. Memorable listening experience."
— jazzreview.com, December 2004
"The jazz on Cool is absolutely solid but never dense — it's playful and flowing, full of imagination and wit… The trio freshens the familiar with new arrangements… flashes of humor with profound respect and love for the tradition… If you liked Oscar Peterson with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis, you'll love this new release."
— All About Jazz , December 2004