Cozy Cole has been among the most respected drummers ever since the 1930s, when his work with Stuff Smith and Cab Calloway gained wide notice. Many drummers keep the beat, but the mark of the extraordinary is to add the alchemy of Leadership. With Cozy there was no flailing of arms in fain tries for exhibitionism without reason; no overbearing pushing when the drums should be carrying; no noise for noise's sake. His solos have logic and direction. Cozy Cole was without a doubt one of the most musical drummers there ever was. Bizet Swings! That infectious Cozy Cole magic says that with, every beat, and it is the synthesis of the entire recording you now hold.
Bizet Swings! That infectious Cozy Cole magic says that with every heat. And it's the synthesis of the entire album you now hold.
The Latin influence for percussive Variety was no more thoroughly put through the Tests than in the amazing scope of the songs (and they are that), the arias and the instrumental interludes of Carmen. Surely the world's most familiar opera has a magic, unique among its counterparts anywhere in the world. An eight year old in New York (or Atlanta or Chicago or Fresno, for that matter) can often be heard singing - or missinging - Tor-ee-a-dor, la la, la la, la la. The fantastic familiarity of this amazing music is an enigma to match the Mona Lisa. And yet with all its ability as a common touchstone, it is Great music in every sense of the word.
Well, the score is not misused here. Listen to any track: superb music translated to the modern idiom with the reverence of highly capable professional music men. That's obvious. But to get back to the original thought: it swings. Oh yes! Dick Hyman and Bob Hammer have arranged a dektette of the Bizet bon mots in delectable style. The notes are entrusted to excellent musicians, and under the leadership and behind the swinging beat of Cozy Cole - the package Goes!
The amiable Cozy is an excellent choice for this assignment. His own personal charm and vitality as a human being match the music he plays here. Union rosters abound with "drummers," but there are perhaps no more than a dozen who really swing a band (indispensable!) and have something creative to say besides. Many drummers keep the beat, but the mark of the extraordinary is to add the alchemy of Leadership. With Cozy there is no flailing of arms in vain tries for exhibitionism without reason; no overbearing pushing when the drums should be carrying; no noise for noise's sake. Cozy Cole is one of the most musical drummers; his solos have Logic and Direction. Even the most casual listener becomes fascinated with the variety of rattamaques, paradiddles, and barrooms, that Cozy constantly pulls out of his professional sleeve.
The Cole apprenticeship, served with Jelly Roll, Benny Carter, Louis, Goodman, Cab, Hines, etc.... means that while he goes back a long way musical-I, he also has much to call upon in competency. And yet he has never stood rhythmically still. His earliest performances are no more like his enormously successful "Topsy," than his European playing with Jack Teagarden are like this fine album.
When the opera Carmen premiered in Paris in March of 1875, it flopped. It was denounced as "unmoral," "immature," "blandly constructed," "a trifle of inconsequence," etc...! It took three years for its magic to take hold. And now it is far and away the most popular opera in the world. This album and the idea of it are respectfully, though not necessarily reverently, dedicated to the perpetuation of Bizet's superb music put in new form. Oh, Carmen has been "swung" before, but not like this album. Music that's simply "jazzed up" too often falls down. Not this COZY CONCEPTION OF CARMEN. As one of the boys on the date said, "Cozy, did you know Bizet?" It's that close.
- Jack Lazare
All Music Guide