The main focus of this collection, which Stardust assembled in 2000, is the lesser-known 1943-1946 recordings of the drumless Nat King Cole Trio, which included Cole on vocals and piano, Oscar Moore on guitar, and Johnny Miller on bass. (Wesley Prince was the trio's original bassist, and bass dynamo Red Callender was briefly on board after Prince and before Miller.) Golden Years: 1943-1946 isn't the place to go if you're only interested in hearing the trio's best known recordings; you won't find "Route 66," "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Hit That Jive, Jack," or "The Frim Fram Sauce" on this CD. The melancholy "I'm Lost" (1943) isn't obscure, but for the most part, Golden Years spotlights the trio's lesser-known work. Ranging from the funky jive numbers "Got a Penny, Benny" and "Let's Spring One" to romantic torch ballads like "My Lips Remember Your Kisses," "Beautiful Moons Ago," and "Let's Pretend," the disc tends to offer material that is solid and pleasing, if less than essential. Not everything on the CD is a trio recording; "I've Found a New Baby," "Rosetta," "Sweet Lorraine," and "Blowed and Gone" are swing instrumentals from Dexter Gordon's first session as a leader. With Gordon on tenor sax, Cole on piano, Harry "Sweets" Edison on trumpet, Miller or Callender on bass, and Clifford "Juicy" Owens on drums, the group was billed as the Dexter Gordon Quintet. These rarities (probably from 1943 or 1944) illustrate Lester Young's tremendous influence on Gordon, who still sounded a lot like the Prez at that point and had yet to develop a recognizable sound of his own; although by 1945, Long Tall Dex would become quite distinctive and influential himself. Golden Years: 1943-1946 isn't recommended to those who don't consider themselves serious Cole collectors; for casual listeners, a better introduction to the Cole Trio of the 1940s would be Rhino's 16-track CD Jumpin' at Capitol: The Best of the Nat King Cole Trio. But those who are heavily into Cole will find a lot to admire about this collection.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: Jazz All Stars