Five keyboard luminaries
Annie Van Auken | Planet Earth | 01/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"JAZZ PIANO ANTHOLOGY * IN THE BEGINNING features superb musicians in equally superlative performances. Points off for audio fidelity on the Waller and the acoustically-recorded Morton tracks. Many sides here are later-career efforts, so the sound is quite good. CD comes with excellent liner notes.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS --
James P. Johnson received little acclaim in his lifetime, although he was known and admired by fellow musicians. Johnson invented the Harlem-stride style later emulated by Fats Waller. The difference though, as Waller was the first to admit, was Johnson was best at it. Waller used to lament that he didn't have as quick a left hand, and that's really what stride is all about.
Until he was almost 40, Jellly Roll Morton played bordello piano in various midwest and southern US cities. Fame came well into middle age, with his late 1920s Hot Peppers group. Morton was always controversial, a horn-blowing self-promoter, and spent as much effort on his image as his music. He had many critics, but was undeniably a great composer and musician.
Earl "Fatha" Hines developed his own style of playing left-hand counter melodies along with right-hand rapid arpeggios and octave melodies. Considered the first modern jazz pianist, he inspired many who followed him.
A preacher's son, Thomas "Fats" Waller was appearing professionally by age 15. He played solo stride piano and organ, and recorded with both small groups and larger orchestras. A prolific songwriter, Waller's happy-go-lucky image masked a drinking problem-- he'd consume gin by the glassful while on stage. This physical abuse may have contributed to his early demise from pneumonia at 39 years of age.
Theodore "Teddy" Wilson performed with such greats as Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman. His style was influenced by Art Tatum, Fats Waller and Earl Hines. Wilson was a pioneer of be-bop, and had considerable influence on his contemporaries.
TOTAL RUNNING TIME -- 52:19