It’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