Piano Starts Here
1933 & 1949 [Brunswick & Capitol]
Critic Scott Yanow wrote, "Tatum's quick reflexes and boundless imagination kept his improvisations filled with fresh (and sometimes futuristic) ideas that put him way ahead of his contemporaries." This remarkable record features Tatum's first four studio tracks from 1933 and another nine tracks from a 1949 solo concert. Breathtaking.
Decca/Capitol Trio Recordings
The King Cole Trio
Before Cole struck gold as a balladeering pop singer he was recognised as one of the finest swing pianists in jazz. The somewhat controversial transition happened while his trio (featuring guitarist Oscar Moore) recorded for Capitol. Getting a hold of this stuff is becoming a bit problematic, but the pay-off for persistence is worthwhile.
Norman Granz recorded these sessions in 1949 and 1950 and eventually released them on his own Norgran label. Powell plays his bop piano at supersonic speeds and rarely takes his foot off the accelerator. The support comes from bassist Ray Brown and drummer Max Roach, a reliable rhythm section that was surely out of breath after this.
With Max Roach and Sonny Rollins on board, this record is fraught with all the eccentricities and tensions that one might expect from such a gathering of iconoclasts. Nevertheless, it works brilliantly. Despite the complex mathematical nature of Monk's playing, Corners possesses more than enough to satisfy even the toughest of critics.
Art Tatum - Ben Webster Quartet
Art Tatum with Ben Webster
It seems a bit of an oddity to team a mainly soloist pianist in Art Tatum with the melodic structuralism of tenor Ben Webster, and that is just the way it sounds at times. Tatum was nearing the end, still one of the greatest pianists in jazz, but feeling a bit self-involved. Webster gracefully steps aside most of time, but has his moments.
John Coltrane cameos while Coleman Hawkins and Art Blakey contribute enough to make this record sound like a veritable explosion of ideas. An extended engagement at the Five Spot club with Coltrane on tenor was what finally put Monk over the top. Try the At Carnegie Hall (2005) set on Blue Note for more Monk/Coltrane genius.
1958 [Blue Note]
A classic Blue Note hard bopper that gets better with age. Pianist Clark is joined by young-guns Jackie McLean on alto and trumpeter Art Farmer, while the legendary Paul Chambers/Philly Joe Jones rhythm section tops things off. Clark only made a handful of records in his drug-shortened life. Struttin' has emerged as a favourite.
At the Pershing… But Not for Me
Ahmad Jamal At the Pershing
Jamal may have been completely forgotten were it not for his profound influence on Miles Davis. This is a straight reissue of his trio's chart-topping 1958 live set. The record stands out from the pack thanks to Jamal's use of silence and meticulous manipulation of volume. Well worth having, despite the short 32-minute playing time.
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