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Review by Scott Yanow: Some British Jazz Pianists


Some British Jazz Pianists (RTR 79065) features seven obscure early pianists. Highpoint is an avant-garde two-piano Tiger Rag.

This is a remarkable compilation of vintage jazz by seven obscure pianists. Few collectors will have owned very many of these 24 performances, several of which are quite astounding.

First, Geoff Griffiths performs an unreleased version of Scott Joplin's “Heliotrope Bouquet” from 1955 that is fairly conventional but well played. Moving back to 1922-23, Max Darewski performs “Monkey Blues” and Joe Bolton is featured on “Piano Man Rag.” Both of those recordings push at the boundary lines of blues and ragtime, sounding a bit radical for the time.
Billy Jones had toured England with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1919 but was completely forgotten by the time he recorded four previously unreleased and modernized ragtime performances from 1945. Why did it take 66 years for those fine recordings to come out? Next, Gerry Moore, an excellent swing pianist inspired by Teddy Wilson, is featured on 11 numbers with a trio from 1935-38.

Reginald Foresythe is in fine form on a pair of piano solos from 1934 but then things go very far left of center. He plays a piano duet with Arthur Young on “Tiger Rag” that is so adventurous that at times it hints strongly at both Lennie Tristano and Cecil Taylor. It was recorded in 1938! This is arguably the earliest example of avant-garde jazz on records and deserves to be listened to closely.
Some British Jazz Pianists finishes with some more gems. Arthur Young (also in 1938) interprets three unknown Art Tatum compositions that had never been recorded before. Tatum wrote very few pieces in his life but these are outstanding. Young emulates both Tatum and Fats Waller, no easy feat now much less in 1938.

Collectors of 1920s and ‘30s jazz, and those who want to discover some early and very talented pianists are advised to go out of their way to acquire Some British Jazz Pianists.
Scott Yanow

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