Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) Compiles Nearly 200
Pre-Capitol Tracks by the Great Singer-Pianist!
Succeeding critically acclaimed Resonance archival collections devoted to previously unheard recordings by Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, Sarah Vaughan, and other eminent jazz performers, Hittin' the Ramp offers the first in-depth survey of singer-pianist Nat King Cole's work in the years preceding his long hit-making tenure at Capitol Records. "This is a really important project for Resonance," says Zev Feldman, label co-president and the set's co-producer. "We've done some pretty substantial packages over the years, such as our three-disc Eric Dolphy and Jaco Pastorius sets with 100-page booklets, but this Nat King Cole box is truly a definitive, king-sized set, clocking in at a staggering 10 LPs worth of essential early Cole material with enhanced audio." The expansive collection – which includes several previously unreleased studio sides, transcriptions, and private recordings – is the first major overview of Cole's earliest work to be produced in conjunction with the musician's estate.
The set's co-producer, writer and historian Will Friedwald – who received Grammy Award nominations for his work on Mosaic Records' landmark 1992 box The Complete Capitol Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio and the 1989 album Nat "King" Cole and the "King" Cole Trio – points out in his comprehensive notes to the collection that Cole's deep and influential jazz roots were often obscured by his towering reputation as a pop singer. "At the height of his fame in the 1950s and ‘60s," he writes, "Nat King Cole (1919-1965) was primarily known as a popular singer – the biggest-selling artist of his generation, no less – who occasionally played piano. By that point, only a few older fans and critics remembered that he had been one of the greatest pianists in the whole history of American music, a true spiritual descendent of Earl ‘Fatha' Hines and Art Tatum, and himself a huge inspiration for Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Erroll Garner, and many others."
Beyond Cole's brilliance at the keyboard, the Resonance set takes in his dazzling work as a vocalist, and includes a new interview with the master pop singer Johnny Mathis, who discusses his debt to and friendship with his great predecessor. Co-produced by Feldman, Friedwald, Seth Berg, Matt Lutthans, and Jordan Taylor, and executive produced by Resonance co-president George Klabin, Hittin' the Ramp hones in on Cole's prodigious early career, beginning with the debut sides he recorded with his brother Eddie for Decca Records as a 17-year-old piano phenom in 1936. The majority of the set's nearly 200 tracks focus on the first work by the King Cole Trio, the seminal combo that put Cole on the map with a swinging combination of jazz, jive, and pop, with an emphasis on his simpatico creative partnership with the trio's longtime guitarist Oscar Moore.
Hittin' the Ramp compiles Cole's recordings – among them the first versions of "Sweet Lorraine," a staple of his ‘40s repertoire, and the R&B and pop hit "Straighten Up and Fly Right" – with his trio and in other studio settings (as sideman and accompanist) for Decca, Ammor, Excelsior, Premier, Mercury, and Philo (including a celebrated session for the latter label, founded by Norman Granz during the 1942 Musicians Union recording ban, with saxophonist Lester Young). It also contains dozens of transcriptions, mainly by the trio, cut by Standard, Davis & Schwegler, and MacGregor for servicing to radio stations, as well as wartime recordings produced for American servicemen by the Armed Forces Radio Service. The newly discovered selections include several performances that were not known to exist before research for the boxed set began. These include a privately recorded number, "The Romany Room is Jumping," a homage to the titular Washington, D.C., club that hosted Cole's group; the hitherto unheard Cinematone transcription "Trompin'"; and an unreleased 1940 trio rendering of Trummy Young's "Whatcha' Know Joe."
• Deluxe vinyl 10LP box set
• First collection produced in partnership with the Cole Estate
• Compiles nearly 200 pre-Capitol tracks by the great singer-pianist
• Featuring an assortment of never-before-issued tracks, recordings seeing their first commercial releases, and miscellaneous rarities culled from a variety of sources including transcription discs and various private collector copies
• Includes extensive booklet with interviews and statements by Johnny Mathis, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, Freddy Cole and others