Wynton Kelly: Someday My Prince Will Come (1961)
It’s tempting to play the “Six Degrees of Separation” game with Miles Davis and see if you can actually link every jazz musician back to him. This is due to the fact that Miles recorded quite a few classic albums, but was also responsible for fostering talented artists in his band that went on to record exceptional sessions of their own. Maiden Voyage and A Love Supreme come to mind.
Although not an adventurous as Hancock or Coltrane, Wynton Kelly was one of Miles’ greatest sidemen, although his contributions to sessions like Kind of Blue frequently remain in the shadow of the other contributors. His playing was so unique and inspired that Miles even replaced Bill Evans with him on one tune because he thought Kelly would interpret it better. Although mainly known for his contribution to other people’s work, Kelly did record an album or two under his own name that give us the opportunity to see what he would do when given the chance to lead.
Someday My Prince Will Come is mostly standards, which is as it should be; Kelly was always quite at home with them and had the gift of being able to play other people’s songs as if they were exactly how the composer intended them to be heard. Although most of these songs have been played hundreds of times, each of these sparkling versions are close to definitive; Kelly invigorates each of them with spirited comping and brisk solos and, in some cases, a fresh perspective. The title track is a perfect example; Miles embraced the melancholy spirit in his version; Kelly chooses to crank the tempo up a notch and play happily, as if this is an unheard second version of the tune where Snow White has actually found her Prince Charming.
The rhythm session is quite stellar and would let any jazz musician rest easy before a recording date. Paul Chambers seems to have played on about half of all jazz sessions recorded in the fifties and sixties and is quite at home in any setting. His dextrous bowed solos are always a delight to listen to and we get one here. Jimmy Cobb, the master of the rim shot, also keep the rhythm going. Along with the standards, Kelly contributes a few unremarkable originals that serve mainly as soloing vehicles. However, on “Wrinkles” we get to hear Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter sit in. Morgan contributes a rare muted solo and Shorter belts off sinuous lines after him.
Despite his playing on various classic sessions, Kelly was never in better form than on this album. A great piano trio date.
Track Listing: Someday My Prince Will Come, Gone With the Wind, Autumn Leaves, Come Rain or Come Shine, Weird Lullaby, Sassy, Wrinkles, On Stage, Char's Blues, Love, I've Found You.
Personnel: Wynton Kelly, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums. Wayne Shorter, sax, and Lee Morgan, trumpet on "Wrinkles".
Record Label: VeeJay Records