Thursday, December 14, 2017

Willie "The Lion" Smith & Don Ewell Grand Piano Duets

Willie "The Lion" Smith & Don Ewell
Grand Piano Duets

This joyous piano collaboration between one of the great stride piano legends and one of the great two-fisted traditional pianists was recorded in 1967. Patrick Scott observes this is music "to be listened to and not written about." He also notes that The Lion is on the left channel and Ewell on the right, but at times where one will be incapable of telling them apart. They had never met until brought together for a 1966 Canadian TV show. This is the second of two albums by the two, and another welcome Sackville reissue from Delmark.

Musically, the mood is set with a blistering, stomping "I've Found a New Baby," followed by a relaxed but also playful, "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid." The interplay between the two on the opening of "I Would Do Anything For You," the wistfulness of "Some of These Days," and then the breakneck tempo of "Just Me, Just You." "Everybody Loves My Baby," is taken at a relaxed tempo with stunning playing. "Keepin' Out of Mischief," has an interjection from the Lion as the two trade lines at a relaxed pace before "Sweet Georgia Brown," that starts in a sedate manner before the two transform it as a lively stomp.

The fact that this is such fun listening should not detract from the fact that there is some serious music being played as well by the two masters of early piano jazz style.

I received my review copy from Delmark. Here is a clip of Willie "The Lion" Smith performing and a clip of a duet by Don Ewell with pianist Dick Wellstood.

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