All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

1

Joe Albany: Now's The Time

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
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 Albany is the pianist's brief association with saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker when Parker was playing in Los Angeles shortly before his famous incarceration in the Camarillo State Mental Hospital following his famous recording studio meltdown July 29, 1946.

Albany performed with Parker and a 20-year old Miles Davis at the Los Angeles' Finale Club in early March. After several frustrating pieces where the two failed to click, Albany said to Parker, "F*** you, Bird," to which Parker promptly fired the pianist. These performances of "Blue N' Boogie," "Anthropology," "Billie's Bounce," "Ornithology," and "All the Things You Are" may be heard on Charlie Parker—Yardbird in Lotus Land (Spotlite Records, 1976). Albany derived much mileage from this encounter as retold in the 1980 documentary, Joe Albany...A Jazz Life. The remainder of his creative life was less noteworthy. Albany was crippled by heroin addiction which dramatically inhibited his ability to perform and record. However, when he did record, his playing was both challenging and thought provoking.

In his next to last recording session, early in 1979, Albany, joined by bassist Art Davis and drummer Roy Haynes, addressed a collection of compositions by or associated with Parker. Originally released as Bird Lives. Albany, who had a reputation for being hard to corral musically in the confines of a trio, plays in very good form in the setting. Other writers have commented that Albany's ideas often got away from him in a combo, making his performances uneven. I believe this was a big part of his charm. Albany possessed chops galore and loved to display them. He was fond of elaborate arpeggios and glissandos ornamenting his playing. He was a stylistic innovator along the lines of Thelonious Monk in that he experimented with rhythm and time in the same way that Monk did harmony. This can be heard on the more Latin-inflected pieces like "Little Suede Shoes" and "Barbados."

Albany's playing is fully orchestral on "Yardbird Suite" and "Billie's Bounce" where he populates his soloing with block chords and intricate single-note runs. His original composition, "Charlie Parker Blues" resurfaces on the soundtrack to Lowdown as the fully elaborated "AB Blues for Large Ensemble." It shows amply that with different luck and life choices, Albany could have cast a long shadow over jazz as an additional piano stream competing with Bill Evans in the vacuum left by Bud Powell and Art Tatum. Albany is an artifact for sure, but he is a talented and important one always reminding us, "what if...?"

Track Listing: Now's the time; Yardbird Suite; Bluebird; Charlie Parker Blues; Autumn in New York; Little Suede Shoes; Billie's Bounce; Confirmation; Barbados; They Can't Take That Away from Me.

Personnel: Joe Albany: piano; Art Davis: bass; Roy Haynes: drums.

Title: Now's The Time | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Interplay Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Bailey's Bundles
DVD/Film Reviews
Read more articles
Now's The Time

Now's The Time

Interplay Records
2015

buy
 

Portrait Of An Artist

Kedar Entertainment Group
1982

buy
 

Albany Touch

Kedar Entertainment Group
1977

buy
 

This Is For Friends

Kedar Entertainment Group
1976

buy
 

Two's Company

Kedar Entertainment Group
1976

buy
 

Joe Albany & Joe...

Kedar Entertainment Group
1974

buy

Related Articles

Read Return to the Future CD/LP/Track Review
Return to the Future
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Telepathy CD/LP/Track Review
Telepathy
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 17, 2018
Read The Whole Thing Is Just There CD/LP/Track Review
The Whole Thing Is Just There
by John Bricker
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Haydn: Symphony No. 39, Symphony No. 87, Mozart – Sinfonia Concertante CD/LP/Track Review
Haydn: Symphony No. 39, Symphony No. 87, Mozart –...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Rogue Star CD/LP/Track Review
Rogue Star
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read "Doubtless" CD/LP/Track Review Doubtless
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 2, 2018
Read "Starebaby" CD/LP/Track Review Starebaby
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 6, 2018
Read "Atody Man" CD/LP/Track Review Atody Man
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 27, 2018
Read "Any Day Now" CD/LP/Track Review Any Day Now
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 14, 2018
Read "Inside Turnabout" CD/LP/Track Review Inside Turnabout
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: February 15, 2018
Read "Backstage Pass" CD/LP/Track Review Backstage Pass
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2018