Friday, July 1, 2011

Pensive stride piano - Willie 'The Lion' Smith

The flexible piano playing of Willie 'The Lion' Smith evokes a broader range of moods than might generally be expected from a stride pianist. Far from providing mechanical virtuosity, his solos are, in turn, reflective, poignant, witty and jubilant.

I find myself listening to his fourteen 1939 Commodore piano solos as a method of meditation. If you haven't already heard these records, rush out and find them. 'I'll Follow You' and 'What is There to Say' are particularly soothing, while his own compositions build creatively on the stride tradition.

Here's 'I'll Follow You':

And a great band performance from a few years earlier (great tenor sax from Cecil Scott!):

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