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Roaring, Vol. 2

Willie "The Lion" Smith

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Album Review

This second volume of Willie "The Lion" Smith's recordings for Vogue took place during his stay in Paris in 1949 and 1950. The first session adds trumpeter Buck Clayton and clarinetist Claude Luter, in addition to drummer Wallace Bishop; no bassist was needed because a stride pianist the caliber of Smith has no problems creating a solid bassline. Two takes of "At the Darktown Strutter's Ball" and Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" feature spirited vocals by Smith and great solos by Smith, Clayton, and Luter. Clayton shines during "Nagasaki," but Smith rises to the occasion to direct the spotlight back to himself. Most of Smith's originals from the solo tracks are fairly obscure originals, except for his jaunty "Conversation on Park Avenue" and a rather intricate arrangement of "Sweet Sue." Like its companion Vogue LP, this record (last reissued in 1974, the year after Smith's death) will be difficult to find but worth the investment.

Biography

Born: 25 November 1897 in Goshen, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Willie "The Lion" Smith in the 1920s was considered one of the big three of stride piano (along with James P. Johnson and Fats Waller) even though he made almost no recordings until the mid-'30s. His mother was an organist and pianist, and Smith started playing piano when he was six. He earned a living playing piano as a teenager, gained his nickname "the Lion" for his heroism in World War I, and after his discharge he became one of the star attractions at Harlem's nightly rent parties. Although...
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