Cool Jazz: The Cocktail Hour

Judged only by the cheesy cover, this CD seems intended for the kind of audience who thinks of jazz as background music to accompany party chit-chat and the swirling of ice cubes in cocktail glasses. Cool Jazz: The Cocktail Hour is a collection of mostly instrumental tunes whose common thread is a smooth groove—at times urban, at times jungle-y—that should get the work-weary CEO and his lady’s hips a-swayin’ on a Friday night. That’s not to say that it is not often quite interesting: The inclusion of a number of the late, adventurous (to say the least) free-jazz keyboardist/composer Sun Ra’s more normal compositions (“Plutonian Nights,” from his 1956 Angels and Demons at Play/The Nubians of Plutonia, and “Kingdom of Not,” from his Greatest Hits, are mysterious, groovy and infectious) is commendable and should make the listener want to go out and investigate Sun Ra’s huge, interesting discography. I also enjoyed discovering Austin-born jazz singer Carmen Bradford. Like the talents of Sun Ra, Bradford’s chops should really not be relegated to background music.