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Echo of Spring Portait of the Duke Madelon Darktown Strutters' Ball Carolina Shout Charleston Contrary Motion Late Hours Here Comes The Band Get Together Blues Pretty Baby Zig Zag Conversation On Park Avenue Ain't Misbehavin' Stormy Weather I'm Gonna Rise the Rest of the Way
|Soloist/Artist||Willie "The Lion" Smith|
|Instruments||Music and Musicians|
Customer Reviews (2)
- "The Lion's A King"Review by Big Toots
There’s no doubt that back in Smith’s day important events – say World War I in Willie’s case – had major impact on the lives of those who experienced them. It was claimed that Willie’s bravery in the service in the Great War was the origin of his leonine nickname. Whether verifiable or not, Smith probably would have gained the moniker anyway from his virile and hell-bent method of playing the piano. And, in this marvelous aggregation Smith’s renditions recorded in late 1949 and early 1950 – including many of his originals – are a showcase for a pianistic style that roars.
Willie was fruit that grew from the James P. Johnson and Ragtime piano tree (as you hear on Johnson’s “Carolina Shout” and elsewhere). Heavily entrenched in syncopation and a “hard left,” Smith’s style was upbeat and virtually polyrhythmic. Compare his “Ain’t Misbehavin’ here with Waller’s classic. His verbal “commentary” as heard here only added to the color of his playing (“Portrait of the Duke,” “Darktown Strutters’ Ball”) – and the stogie and bowler only enhanced the presentation (“Here Comes the Band”). Subtlety was not the order of the day when Smith played. Even the slower material here has a fluidity and energy to it (“Late Hours,””Get Together Blues” and “Stormy Weather” with trumpeter Buck Clayton and clarinetist Claude Luter joining in).
Compositionally, Smith’s writing was effervescent and invigorating (“Echoes of Spring,” “Contrary Motion”). Although he loved boxing and boxers, Smith pulled no punches either when he played, sang or composed.
While Smith was there but inadvertently missing from the classic photograph known as “A Great Day in Harlem,” this superb recording demonstrates that this cat was indeed a “great” – a lion in both name and substance.
(Posted on 6/5/2015)
- Willie "The Lion" SmithReview by Simon Sez
The Lion’s Inner City album is from the late 1940s and has him playing duets with a drummer and with a quartet that includes Buck Clayton. Best are Smith’s versions of his own tunes including “Contrary Motion,” “Zig Zag,” “Conversations On Park Avenue” (love that title!) and “Echo Of Spring.” Bebop may have been the new form of jazz at the time, but Willie “The Lion” Smith shows that his own playing was classic and never needed to be “updated.”
Simon Sez: When it came to stride piano and creating beautiful sophisticated melodies, Willie “The Lion” Smith (IC7015) was near the top.
(Posted on 5/6/2014)
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