Nat King Cole

Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years 1936-1943

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By any measure, Resonance's 2019 box Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) is a monumental achievement in musical preservation. Over the course of seven CDs (or 10 LPs), Hittin' the Ramp chronicles the earliest recordings of Nat King Cole, rounding up every known track from the days prior to his time at Capitol Records. Those records for Capitol -- sessions that found him slowly transitioning from a swinging jazz pianist to smooth pop crooner -- were what brought Cole lasting fame, but the sides on Hittin' the Ramp lie at the foundation of his music. Playing with a trio comprised of guitarist Oscar Moore and usually Wesley Prince on bass (Johnny Miller took over his role toward the end of 1942), Cole essayed a sly, sophisticated spin on swing, one that relied on a standards songbook yet found plenty of space for blues, boogie, and originals. The standards hint at the refined vocal style Cole developed at Capitol, but the focus here isn't on singing, it's on Cole as a bandleader. During the eight years covered on this set, he worked in a variety of formats, beginning as the musical director for his older brother Eddie in 1936, then sharpening his skills as a leader with his trio. The group worked hard, supporting vocalists and hopping through transcription services as they cut the occasional session for fledgling labels. While many of these sides, particularly the ones recorded for Decca, have been reissued numerous times on fly-by-night imprints, the producers of Hittin' the Ramp took the effort to remaster these recordings so they gleam, then placed them in exacting context, augmented by notes by Will Friedwald. As history, the set is essential, but Hittin' the Ramp isn't a mere scholastic text. The music is jumping, lively, and alive, still brimming with wit and joy. As valuable as it is to have a way to trace the evolution of Cole as a stylist during these early years, it's simply a delight to have these recordings so thoughtfully and lovingly presented.

Track Listing - Disc 4

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
02:38 Amazon
2
02:23 Amazon
3
02:32 Amazon
4
02:47 Amazon
5
02:23 Amazon
6
01:51 Amazon
7
01:50 Amazon
8
02:01 Amazon
9
01:51 Amazon
10
02:38 Amazon
11
01:35 Amazon
12
02:44 Amazon
13
02:18 Amazon
14
02:17 Amazon
15
02:43 Amazon
16
02:32 Amazon
17
02:11 Amazon
18
03:13 Amazon
19
02:19 Amazon
20
02:36 Amazon
21
02:57 Amazon
22
02:34 Amazon
23
02:44 Amazon
24
02:49 Amazon
25
02:26 Amazon
26
02:05 Amazon
27
03:05 Amazon
28
03:52 Amazon
29
02:00 Amazon
30
02:26 Amazon
31
02:27 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick