P>Stride piano was once the rage with such giants as James P. Johnson, Willie "the Lion" Smith, Duke Ellington and reaching its zenith in the hands of Fats Waller. Perhaps the best known proponents of this style among the current crop of pianists are Ralph Sutton and Judy Carmichael. Now comes Henry thins Francis with a CD combining two previously issued LPs and unreleased material. Francis is the leader of The Swing Legacy, a six-piece band working out of the New England area.
The left hand bass playing is essential to the structure, harmony and rhythm of this jazz piano genre. As Francis says in the liner notes, playing stride "dictates that both hands earn a living". Like ragtime upon which it was based, stride lost its prominence but not before influencing such greats as Art Tatum. The play list discloses Francis' affinity for Waller, and why not, with about a third of the program comprised of items from that bigger than life entertainer (with Ellington's works not far behind). In addition to familiar Waller, there are a couple of his lesser known pieces like "Up Jumped You" with "Lounging at the Waldorf". Francis does one of the gems of stride piano, "Jitterbug Waltz", more quietly than one normally hears it, allowing the listener to get a greater appreciation for the melody. To his credit, Francis understands that over an hour's worth of stride can become a bit wearing unless you're Waller. So the program includes some lush rendering of romantic ballads like "Prelude to a Kiss" and "Azure" both by Ellington.
This CD is a welcome addition to current stride piano literature. It is available through the net from amazon.com and directly from Mephistopheles Records.
Track Listing: Serenade for a Wealthy Widow; I Ain't Got Nobody; Prelude to a Kiss; Stompy Jones; Willow Tree; Up Jumped You with Love; Jitterbug Waltz; Wild Cat Blues; The Mooche; Lounging at the Waldorf; Zonky; Azure; I'm Putting all My Eggs in One Basket; Harlem Blues; You Took Advantage of Me; Concerto for Cootie; The Pearls; Black and Tan Fantasy; Love Me Or Leave Me; Handful of Keys
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.