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Jazz In Paris, Vol. 64: Music On My Mind

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Album Review

Willie "The Lion" Smith was one of the last remaining giants from the stride piano era when he made this studio recording for Decca in 1965. Although seven of the 15 tracks are Smith's compositions, they are not his better known works, adding to the value of this release. One can hear how a performance like the driving "In a Minor Groove" could have influenced Duke Ellington early in his career. There are also strong takes of oldies like "Ain't She Sweet" and "Some of These Days," along with an elaborate arrangement of George Gershwin's "Summertime" that likely dazzled the composer if he had the opportunity to hear it during his many visits to Harlem. Smith delves into the works of his comrades in stride, including James P. Johnson's demanding and unjustly obscure "Steeplechase" and protégé Fats Waller's well-known "Honeysuckle Rose." This CD reissue adds three previously unreleased tracks, among them a playful reworking of Fryderyk Chopin's "Polonaise" and Smith's own "All Out of Breath" and "Music on My Mind," both adding his friendly (if somewhat hoarse) vocals. Recommended.

Biography

Born: November 25, 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...
Full Bio

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