Sunday, February 5, 2012

Master Pianists Sing!

Fresh from the third, and the last radio broadcast under the title, Americans in Paris (an internet-based  programme for Iran which I foolishly do from my own pocket) that was a survey of lives and recordings of American jazz musicians in the city of equality and liberty, I'm going to share with you two remarkable recordings that I played in the show.

Firstly, the tunes are recorded by two of my favorites jazz pianist, Joe Albany and Jimmy Rowles, and secondly, they both sing in these recordings, though they are not singers in the common sense of the word (and from this "amateur" group comes my preferred jazz singers - pianists, trumpetists and reed men who sings!)

Joe Albany, having a particular empathy for ballads and Billy Strayhorn, in 1977 Paris recorded a moving interpretation of Lush Life, in which he manages to balance the sense of sadness in the song with rich, colorful textures added by his romantic and vulnerable mind. Albany says: "With a great melody you're going to get a great composition, with great chords. Then, logically, the tune will be a pleasure for jazz musicians to improvise on and interpret in their own way. And of course most of these songs also happen to have great lyrics, which can be kept in mind to lend emphasis even to an instrumental version."

Here is Joe playing and singing Lush Life with his polite earthiness:

"Musicians have a way of using words in a sense totally different from their everyday usage," says drummer Shelly Manne, "one of these words is Beautiful." And Shelly explains it further by stating that where most people use the word to describe an outward appearance that is pleasing to the eye, the musician uses it to describe the inner person. "I know of no person who deserves this description more than JIMMY ROWLES," says Shelly.

This beautiful musician was passing through the city of Paris, around the same time Mr Albany was living his "lush life." During his Parisian affair, Rowles became so popular in French recording studios that in a single day in 1978, he recorded four complete albums for three different labels.

Here, on May 30th or 31th , 1980,  Rowles played and sang a Ben Webster tune called S. H. Blackula:

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