Entertainment Weekly (3/10/95, p.69) - "...Wynton's septet (heard here) had a rich, cohesive sound and a flair for drama, and the group's recent breakup--he now has a quartet--was a major loss....[this] is a valuable reminder of what the ensemble had to offer..." - Rating: B+
JazzTimes (7-8/95, p.111) - "...reveals Wynton's puckish wit, showing that there's a smile beneath all that public seriousness..."
Vibe (6/95, p.128) - "...As both Marsalises work regularly with children, it's fitting that they should record this album, presenting music that will draw kids in but keep an adult's attention as well..."
Jazziz (9/95, p.90) - "...JOE COOL'S BLUES is an interesting two-fold approach to Peanuts music. The contrast between Ellis' straightahead interpretations and Wynton's current directions in music is intriguing and ultimately unique."
New York Times (Publisher) (1/6/96, p.C16) - Included on Peter Watrous' list of the Top 10 Albums of `95 - "...exceptional for the humor and play in the arrangements..."
Wynton Marsalis Septet: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet); Wessell Anderson (alto & soprano saxophones); Victor Gaines (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Wycliffe Gordon (trombone); Eric Reed (piano); Benjamin Wolfe (acoustic bass); Herlin Riley (drums).
Ellis Marsalis Trio: Ellis Marsalis (piano); Reginald Veal (bass); Martin Butler (drums).
Additional personnel: Germaine Bazzle (vocals); Branford Marsalis (tenor saxophone); Tom Peterson (baritone saxophone); Chuck Findley (trumpet); Delfeayo Marsalis (trombone).
Engineers: Steve Reynolds, Clarence "Reggie" Toussaint, Mike Marciano.
Recorded at Ultrasonic, New Orleans, Louisiana on April 12, 1994; Sea Saint, New Orleans, Louisiana on June 14, 1994; Systems II, Brooklyn, New York on August 25, 1994. Includes liner notes by Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch.
"Buggy Ride" was nominated for a 1996 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written For A Motion Picture Or For Television.
For many contemporary listeners, animated cartoons have long been one of our richest sources of subliminal information about jazz. For example, early Max Fleisher cartoons, such as Betty Boop, always had a risque jazz flavor (and even boasted cameo appearances from the likes of Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway).
But it wasn't until West Coast jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi began scoring the original Charlie Brown cartoons that television viewers could experience the sound of a jazz trio in an authentic jamming mode. And even after Guaraldi's untimely death, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS remained a best-seller. Among those touched by that and other Guaraldi soundtracks were young Wynton Marsalis and his father Ellis.
With JOE COOL'S BLUES, the younger and elder Marsalis return the favor with an upbeat, infectiously swinging set of originals (performed by Wynton's Septet) and Guaraldi chestnuts (performed by Ellis' Trio). The opening cover of "Linus & Lucy" fleshes out Guaraldi's gospel-styled theme and groove with rich four-part harmonies and concise, swinging solos. Wynton's "Buggy Ride" opens with a brisk stop time exchange, leading to a dynamic muted solo, brimming over with rhythmically complex figures, while the strutting "Wright Brothers Rag" combines elegant, good natured swing with Armstrong-styled elements of classic polyphony. Meanwhile, father Ellis revels in Guaraldi's own tunes, imbued as they are with echoes of classic '50s piano trios, from the fervent rhythmic amens of "Peppermint Patty," to the down in the alley blues of "Little Birdie," with its snappy backbeat. And in closing, the title tune offers a laid back C-jam blues that illustrates Wynton's ever-growing command of brass inflections.