As a commercial release, the 12-inch LP Kenny Drew and His Progressive Piano has a curious history. It was also released under the title The Modernity of Kenny Drew and contained music from two recording sessions, one held in New York City In 1953 and the second in Los Angeles in 1954. Some of the sides released here were originally released as a 10-inch LP entitled The Ideation of Kenny Drew. Got that straight? This was the release paradigm back in the day, and has lasted the length of the LP's life.
Like his debut effort, New FacesNew Sounds (Blue Note, 1953), Kenny Drew and His Progressive Piano is a trio session featuring bassist Eugene Wright, split between two drummers, Charles Wright in New York City and Lawrence Marable in Los Angeles. In spite of the bi-coastal circumstances, the produced collection remains quite even and homogeneous. The disc is bookended by two blues, "Bluesville" and "Kenny's Blues." The former was recorded in NYC, the latter in LA. Comparing the two, one could almost identify which was from where. "Bluesville" kicks off the disc adhering to the Art Pepper admonition not to start a set with a ballad. It is a Basie-style blues with a spare style dominated by Drew's propulsive left hand and Charles Wright's middle-of-the-note bass playing. Swing is built into performances like this, driving and assertive. Music to get attention.
"Kenny's Blues" smacks of the overly-arranged West Coast jazz. Not overly arranged in a bad way, but in a way that could restrict swing in lesser players. In this present case, Drew presents himself as a master in his craft, supported percussively by Marable, who introduces the tune with an almost Sonny Rollins-"St. Thomas" vibe. The trio plays in the island guise for a chorus, switching to a straight 4/4 until reverting at the coda. Drew's blues sense was so secure and his spare and precise fingering style dependable. This same dependability is heard in the rarely performed standard "Four and Five" which he performs at a brisk clip. Drew's chording is secure and his solo probing and biting.
The pianist surveys "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" as a solo piece, enabling many orchestral flourishes and augmentations. Drew is able to pull more dramatic harmonies from the piece, making the presentation that much more appealing. The pianist's bebop chops are solid also, playing Thelonious Monk's "52nd Street Theme" recorded during his LA session. At this point, Drew remains four years from his pivotal role on John Coltrane's Blue Train (Blue Note, 1958). Drew's impact is steadily evolving.
Bluesville; Angie; I Can Make You Love Me; My Beautiful Lady; Many Miles Away; 52nd
Street Theme; I'll Remember April; Four and Five' Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Lo
Flame; Chartreuse; Kenny's Blues
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