The title Classic Cool implies (perhaps unintentionally) that this compilation focuses on cool jazz recordings of the late '40s and '50s -- in other words, artists like Stan Getz, Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, and Lee Konitz on the instrumental side; and Chris Connor, June Christy, and Julie London on the vocal side; and Chet Baker on both sides. Back then, those artists were known for their subtle approach to post-swing, post-WWII bop changes; they swung, but in a way that was understated rather than aggressive. This 2004 release, however, isn't cool jazz in the strict sense; the material (mostly hard bop, post-bop, and soul-jazz) tends to have a more hard-swinging outlook and doesn't adhere to that Getz/Desmond/Brubeck/Konitz or Connor/Christy/London aesthetic. But if Nardis/Liquid 8 means cool as in hip, the title Classic Cool isn't a misnomer. Many of these vocal and instrumental performances (some of them new, some from the GoJazz catalog) do, in fact, have a certain hipster appeal -- at least according to the standards of the '50s, '60s, and '70s hipsters -- and most of them have a strong sense of groove as well as a desire for accessibility. Classic Cool definitely goes for the accessibility factor on selections that range from British singer Georgie Fame's Mark Murphy-minded version of Horace Silver's "Doodlin'" and female vocalist Clementine's French-language take on the standard "These Foolish Things" to Ben Sidran's funky instrumental "Little Sherry." Meanwhile, singer Joy Dragland's post-bop interpretation of George Gershwin's "Summertime" has an Oliver Nelson-ish appeal; her performance gives some indication of what might have occurred if Nelson had featured a female vocalist on his classic Blues and the Abstract Truth album back in the early '60s. Classic Cool doesn't pretend to point jazz in any new directions; nonetheless, it's a solid disc that will appeal to those who like their hard bop, post-bop, and soul-jazz with a lot of groove.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson