Home » Jazz Musicians » Joe Albany

Joe Albany

Joe Albany was considered something of a legend in modern jazz and one of the first important bebop pianists. As with many others, critics never acknowledged his talents in the beginning of his career. Rumored to have been Charlie Parker's favorite pianist, Joe Albany was renowned in his time. After a lengthy seclusion from the scene, he resurfaced in the 70s just in time to leave some lasting recordings.

Albany worked in the '40s with Benny Carter, and Stan Getz. His first recording session was with Georgie Auld's big band in '45 on the sessions for “Honey,” and “Stompin' At The Savoy.” His records with Lester Young in '46 in Los Angeles revealed both in comping and solos that he was well ahead of the field.

In a rare live broadcast from the Finale Club in 1946, Albany is an aggressive participant, his choruses fully a match for Charlie Parker's, raising memories of the creative dueling of Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. This period established his reputation, but Albany was potentially a giant who got lost, perhaps because of drugs; in the late '40s.

There is not much information on him until his first recording as a co-leader doing a quartet set “The Right Combination,” recorded in 1957 with Warne Marsh; this is his most popular release. He wrote songs recorded by Anita O'Day, and worked with Charles Mingus in New York in '63.

Albany again slipped into a period of seclusion, not heard from until 1971when he did “Joe Albany At Home,” followed by “Proto-Bopper” in ’72. He led a trio set in 1973’s “Birdtown Birds,” and Birdtown Blues,” following with “Two's Company,” with bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson, for Steeplechase, in Copenhagen '74.

Albany’s solo sets included a date from Milan, Italy; “This Is For My Friends,” (’74) “Plays George Gershwin” and “Bruce Lane,” made in Paris.(’76) “The Albany Touch,” ('77) on Seabreeze, was recorded in California. There was a duo “Joe + Joe,” ('74) done in Rome with Joe Venuti.

He went back to leading a trio that also included bassist Art Davis and drummer Roy Haynes, on “Bird Lives!” from a New York date in '79. “Portrait Of An Artist,” from '81 on Elektra finds Joe teamed with George Duvivier, Charlie Persip, and Al Gofa on guitar. This would be his last recording.

Joe Albany led a shadowy existence in the annals of jazz piano, and to this day seems to be largely forgotten, if acknowledged at all.

Read more


Album Review

Joe Albany: Now's The Time

Read "Now's The Time" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Pianist Joe Albany (1924-1988) is a musicological artifact within an art form full of them. Most recently, Albany has garnered attention through the movie and soundtrack Low Down (Bona Fide Productions, 2014, directed by Jeff Priess) based on the bracing, stream-of-conscience memoire written by his daughter, Amy-Jo Albany. His is a story told many times: near-genius junkie brushes stardom but never achieves the escape velocity necessary to escape his desperate circumstances to make his mark. Central to any discussion of ...

Bailey's Bundles

Joe Albany and Low Down

Read "Joe Albany and Low Down" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Joseph Albani (1924-1988), better known as Joe Albany, is a footnote in jazz history. A monumentally talented pianist with an exceptionally fragile constitution, Albany, like the late Chet Baker pianist Dick Twardzik, was hampered by a self-doubt relieved by heroin. Albany differed from Twardzik in that, like Baker, he lived well beyond the average junkie lifespan to providing a glimpse of what the late-life sequale of chemical dependency--a brutal fade-out really looks like. Unlike Baker, Art Pepper, ...

Film Review

Low Down

Read "Low Down" reviewed by Victor L. Schermer

Low Down Directed by Jeff Preiss Screenplay by Amy Albany and Topper Lilien Oscilliscope Laboratories 2014 Low Down is an independent film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2014. It relates to the life of the late Joe Albany, a well accomplished if lesser known swing and bebop jazz pianist during the 1940s through 1980s. Albany performed with the likes of Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and ...

Read more articles


Joe Albany: Right Combination

Joe Albany: Right Combination

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Joe Albany is a jazz footnote today. The late pianist, who began his career in 1943 and first recorded in 1945 with the Georgie Auld Orchestra, made remarkably few albums. Albany, who was deeply influenced by Bud Powell's attack and had smatterings of Thelonious Monk's and Lennie Tristano's abstraction, had terrible substance abuse problems throughout his life. The problems started soon after he began recording, and his drug addiction and range of accompanying legal issues that followed prevented him from ...


TV / Film

Low Down - Opens Friday 11/14 Ritz At The Bourse Theatre in Philadelphia

Low Down - Opens Friday 11/14 Ritz At The Bourse Theatre in Philadelphia

Source: Donna Baum

Low Down stars John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headley, Caleb Landry Jones and Flea. Opens: Friday November 14 Ritz at the Bourse Theatre 400 Ranstead St Philadelphia, PA 19106 Low Down, based on Amy-Jo Albany’s powerful memoir of growing up in the care of her gifted, tormented and frequently absent musician father, the bebop jazz pianist Joe Albany, focuses on the years 1964 to 1974, when Amy (Elle Fanning) had ...



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Now's The Time

Interplay Records


Portrait Of An Artist

Kedar Entertainment Group


Albany Touch

Kedar Entertainment Group


Two's Company

Kedar Entertainment Group


This Is For Friends

Kedar Entertainment Group


Joe Albany & Joe...

Kedar Entertainment Group




Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.