Jim Hession's Playing with Fire: Volume One, The Giants of Stride is both historical, and an impressive piece of stride piano playing. Hession began playing at a young age and was a fixture on the traditional jazz scene in California by the time he was 20. He was a protege of Eubie Blake, who he recorded with while still in his twenties. Hession then began a 33-year career with the Disney Company, where he and his wife Martha, a singer, began entertaining guest in both Disneyland and Disney World. Most recently, they have been delighting jazz fans in small clubs in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast where they have relocated.
On this CD, Hession lays down some impressive playing in a style that is becoming harder to find in live venues, but no less joyous when heard. James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout" is peppy; fast paced, and shows Hession's talent as a stride player. Fats Waller's "Viper's Drag" starts off bluesy and slow as it build into the breakneck speed that Waller was known for in his stride playing. Hession handles the seemingly impossible Willie "The Lion" Smith's "Finger Breaker" with great agility and an impressive left hand. In all, there are 21 stride tunes on Playing With Fire that Hession plays with historical accuracy and an impressive style that places him among the top living stride players.
Fortunately, Hession has provided video of most of the selections here on his YouTube page. He and Martha have placed over 200 videos of his club and studio playing on his site, where seeing Hession play with fire is most impressive. Playing with Fire: The Giants of Stride is an impressive collection of stride tunes in the style of Johnson, Smith, Blake, and Waller played by a very capable Jim Hession.
Track Listing: Jingles; Alligator Crawl; Finger Buster; Mule Walk; Lonesome Reverie; Minor Drag; Ripples of the Nile; Jitterbug Waltz; The Charleston; Nothin'; Oh Suzanna, Dust, Dust Off That Old Piano; Viper's Drag; Spanish Venus; I'm Crazy About My Baby; Pork N' Beans; Black and Blue; Carolina Shout; Handful of Keys; Snowy Morning Blues; Spreadin' Rhythm Around; Little Rock Getaway.