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My Baby With the Black Dress On

Jay McShann

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Album Review

In the 20th Century, Jay McShann was documented in a variety of settings, everything from the big bands that made him famous in the 1940s to sextets and intimate trios. But the veteran pianist/singer has no band at all on My Baby With the Black Dress On, which finds an 82-year-old McShann playing unaccompanied solo piano aboard the S/S Norway (a cruise ship) in different parts of the Caribbean in December 1991. At 82, McShann didn't have the voice he once did, but his hands and fingers were still in great shape. His piano playing is as impressive as ever on inspired performances of "Stardust," "Body and Soul," and other well known standards. Because he doesn't have other musicians to worry about, McShann is all the more spontaneous and improvisatory, in fact, he didn't follow any lists of songs during his S/S Norway engagement of December 1991. If he decided to play "I'll See You in My Dreams" at a given moment, "I'll See You in My Dreams" is what the audience would hear. This CD falls short of essential, but it's a generally rewarding example of late period McShann.

Biography

Born: 12 January 1916 in Muskogee, OK

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The great veteran pianist Jay McShann (also known as Hootie) enjoyed a long career and it is unfair to primarily think of him as merely the leader of an orchestra that featured a young Charlie Parker. He was mostly self-taught as a pianist, worked with Don Byas as early as 1931 and played throughout the Midwest before settling in Kansas City in 1936. McShann formed his own sextet the following year and by 1939 had his own big band. In 1940 at a radio station in Wichita, KS, McShann and an octet out...
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My Baby With the Black Dress On, Jay McShann
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