Dance Master - Baby Laurence

This is the first album by that rarest of rhythmic phenomena an authentic jazz dancer. It is difficult to find, let alone define, a real jazz singer; but no category has been so wildly confused as that of jazz dancing. More and more dance studios and individual teachers have souses in jazz dancing, but their instruction is usually a cross between dated Jack Cole Broadwayisms and borrowings from Gene Kelly. There is also jazz choreography which, with very few exceptions (such as the best work of Lee Becker and Ruth Walton) combines ballet, Martha Graham-like posturing and dimly absorbed Pearl Primus movements into a grotesque grammar of pretentiousness.

Baby Laurence is something else. In the consistency and fluidity of his beat, the bending melodic lines of his phrasing, and his overall instrumentalized conception, Baby is a jazz musician. Ive seen him at Miltons and at other sessions sit in with a combo and become another instrument taking solos, trading breaks, building on motifs suggested by a previous hornman. As Whitney Balliett has observed in The New Yorker: Laurence is essentially a great drummer. Reviewing Baby with Charlie Mingus at the Showplace in New York, Balliett added: He did, in a matter of minutes, what celebrated workers like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly had only dreamed of these many years.


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Baby at Birdland The Sand Buck Dance Mall March Concerto in Taps Whispering Delila's Theme Baby's Walking Blues Moose the Mooche Lullaby of the Leaves Ornithology

Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist Baby Laurence
Instruments Music and Musicians
Composer No
Accompanist/ Conductor No


Customer Reviews (2)

"Masterful Tap Dance Jazz!"Review by Big Toots
CJ 30 Dancemaster Baby Laurence

In all honesty, when I stumbled – that is the first and last time that word will and could appear here – upon “Dancemaster,” I approached the listening with no small degree of skepticism. However, a closer listen and ultimately an understanding of the enormous musical talent that was “Baby” Laurence led me to gain a tremendous insight into his true genius. Much more than a hoofer a la Astaire, Kelly, or even “Bojangles” Robinson, Laurence had a special gift to be adept at creating what were complete, logical and highly creative jazz improvisations via tap. His feet simply became a musical instrument.

On this unique recording we encounter Laurence tap dancing improvisationally to 11 selections, including Bop standards (“Orinthology,” Moose the Mooche”). The jazz fare was well-known to “Baby,” as he had performed extensively with jazz artists including Art Tatum, Max Roach and Charles Mingus. The fascinating thing about “Dancemaster” is the fact that, unlike a video, in audio mode the listening mind can delve undistracted into Laurence’s extensive jazz vocabulary and, in doing so, it can run wild in parallel with Laurence’s flying feet (his unaccompanied “Concerto in Taps”). Laurence’s unique ability to create rhythmic and polyrhythmic “melodic” solo lines is only enhanced by the missing visual (“Lullaby of the Leaves”).

The two different rhythm sections here are stellar in supporting and framing Laurence’s tap. Wisely, they refrain from over-stepping boundaries onto what’s rapidly moving up front (“Buck Dance”). Pianists Nat Pierce and Roland Hanna marvelously comp and encourage and bassists Arvell Shaw and Al Hall drive hard. With timing everything, drummers Osie Johnson and Gerard “Dave” Pochenet provide the magic momentum that Laurence needs to fly.

“Dancemaster” provides a fascinating perspective of a true jazz artist. Give it a listen. If one opens ears, you might definitely walk away from it with a zip in your step – and your spirit.
(Posted on 6/6/2015)
Baby Laurence: DancemasterReview by Simon Sez
It is not too surprising that tap dancers hardly ever make recordings. While one can imagine them dancing, since one can’t see them, a lot is missing. Fred Astaire and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson could also sing so they made a few records along the way. Baby Laurence started out as a singer with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers when he was just 12, but dancing soon took over.
Ironically there is no singing on Baby Laurence’s only album, Dancemaster, but his dancing was too special not to be recorded at least once. Baby Laurence was different from most other tap dancers in that not only could he sound like a drummer, but he put together “solos” that were worthy of horn players. On this set from 1960 he keeps up with fast company (including Paul Quinichette and Bobby Jaspar) and takes “Concerto In Taps” as a dazzling solo piece. Although one cannot see him, the music on Dancemaster is very complete by itself.

Simon Sez: Baby Laurence on his only album, Dancemaster (CJ30), taps up a storm and does very well with a swinging jazz group.
(Posted on 5/6/2014)

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