summed up the outsize talent of British pianist Stan Tracey in a remark he made sometime in the early 1960s. Tracey was then the house pianist at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, where Rollins was playing a season. "Does anyone over here realise how good this guy is?" Rollins asked the audience.
At the time, local jazz musicians were automatically regarded as inferior to Americans by many British jazz fans. Not all American tenor saxophonists were as enthusiastic as Rollins, either. A worse-for-wear Stan Getz
, on the opening night of his Ronnie Scott's season, announced from the stage that Tracey and the rest of the house band were incompetent. "Bollocks," replied Tracey, slamming his keyboard lid down and leaving the stage. ("He was as good as gold for the rest of the week," Tracey said later).
The eight-track beauty which is the never before released The 1959 Sessions
captures Tracey a year after the release of his debut album, Showcase
(Vogue, 1958), and half a decade before his early masterpiece, Jazz Suite Inspired By Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood"
(Columbia, 1965). Tracey's formative influences Bud Powell
and Thelonious Monk
are both in evidence, but Tracey has found much of his own singular voice, roughly equal parts lyrical and percussive.
The album was recorded in two separate sessions made within a few days of each other in June 1959. Four tracks were recorded at each session, one of standards, the other of Tracey originals. The bassist on both sessions was Kenny Knapper
and the drummer on the first was Tony Crombie
and on the second Phil Seamen
. Knapper and Seamen had played on a few tracks on Showcase
and on the entirety of Tracey's sophomore set, Little Klunk
(Vogue, 1959). All eight tracks are a delight, with a distinctive treatment of Lester Young
's "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid" and the frantic "Pitter Patter Panic" by short necks the standout standard and original. Heaven knows why it has taken so long for the album, which has excellent audio, to be released. But we can be grateful that it is finally with us, on Tracey's son Clark Tracey
's ReSteamed label.
Sometimes I'm Happy; Just You Just Me; Moonlight In Vermont; Jumpin' With Symphony Sid; Mood 13; Little Girl Sadly; Street Of Themes; Pittar Patter Panic.
Stan Tracey: vibraphone (7); Tony Crombie: drums (1-4); Phil Seamen: drums (5-8).