Found! The Memoirs of Willie The Lion Smith

Smith, willie-Wordpress-1It’s a bar in Atlantic City, with some dude striding across the keys, playing a joyful kind of piano music that sounds like it could be from a movie made around the turn of the century. Before he plays the next tune, he explains what he’s doing and why. But he doesn’t recite a laundry list of dull names, dates and places, no sir. He’s reciting the living history of early jazz and he would know. He’s one of its masters.

That’s exactly what jazz pianist Willie Smith does, on The Memoirs of Willie The Lion Smith (RCA LSP 6016, stereo). On this two LP set, Willie does as much talking as playing and it’s a rare chance to hear him glibly talk about what we would now call jazz, before it had a name. Continue reading

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Got The Senor Blues: Jazz Pianist Horace Silver Dies

silver, horace-senor blues LP2I have a general recollection of the first time I heard the piano of Horace Silver. There was an odd (but likeable) funk and his left hand tended to hit somewhat dissonant block chords I wasn’t used to. But mostly, it was his melodies that stood out. I believe that’s why Silver will be remembered long after his death on June 18, 2014. It was Bud Powell’s prowess at the keys that made you stop and listen. With Silver, it’s the melody. Not that all his melodies were happy and bright. His minor mood often came through in memorable ways, too. Continue reading

RSD! Albert Ammons Blue Note 75th Anniversary LP

Ammons, Albert LP-01-webI’ve read some consternation over the release of Blue Note’s 75th anniversary LPs. As in, how do they sound for a mere $15? And who is doing the pressing? For those who read the deadwax/runout groove, here is the information I found on side A: B0020066-01A, U, RJ, Sterling. Continue reading

Found! Nat King Cole Sings-George Shearing Plays

cole, nat and shearing, g-wordressWhoever decided to put Nat Cole and George Shearing together knew what they were doing. The result is just plain beautiful music. Not softly-sighing to the point of boredom or silly kids-stuff beautiful. I can’t listen to this LP enough. Cole and Shearing mesh together perfectly. It’s a shame they didn’t do it more often. Continue reading

Deciphered! Nat King Cole and Lester Young

nate cole-lester young-blogWhen does a record seem too good to be true? When it’s Crown Records CST 412, Nat King Cole & Lester Young! Of the five tunes, Lester does play on all five, but Cole only two. Given Cole on the cover, you’d think he would be on every song. It’s always hard to know what you’re getting with Crown, since there are never any liner notes.

All the online discographies list this 1962 stereo LP as being taken from the July 15, 1942 Los Angeles performance on the Philo/Aladdin label, but something just didn’t add up. Continue reading

Found! The Three

The ThreeEvery once in a while I pick up an LP for its cover, and The Three was one of those, years ago (which is why I don’t recall the cost, but it was in the $5-10 range). The cover is dark, with what appear to be blurry, out of focus lights and as a photographer, it appealed to me. The songs and performance more than justified my faith in “buying by cover.” This 1978 release on Inner City Records (IC6007) is a showcase for jazz pianist Joe Sample, drummer Shelly Manne and bassist Ray Brown. Before you stop reading, give Sample a chance to impress you.

Sample is best known for his work with the Crusaders, a 60s jazz band (then known as the Jazz Crusaders), who morphed into the 70s as more of a pop jazz group, with a few songs that Continue reading

Found! Donnybrook With Donegan

donegan, dot-WEB2I picked up Donnybrook With Donegan (1959, Capitol T1226, in mono) thinking it was Dorothy Dunn, another jazz musician you’ve probably never heard of. Once the stylus hit the vinyl I knew that this Dorothy was someone else, and WHEW, is she ever. Tell Oscar Peterson to make room on the bench, ’cause Dorothy Donegan, in my not so humble opinion, is just as technically talented as he is.

That’s quite a statement, given that along with Art Tatum, Peterson is often regarded as the most prodigious pure talent in piano playing jazz (I’d put Phineas Newborn, Jr. near the top of the talent category, too. It’s pronounced Fine-us, by the way). Continue reading