2. Blue Skies
3. I Found a New Baby
4. Tea for Two
6. You're Driving Me Crazy
7. Here Comes the Band
8. Sweet Georgia Brown
9. Georgia on my Mind
10. Linger Awhile/Shine
11. If I Could Be With You
12. Just You, Just Me
13. Squeeze Me
14. Twelfth Street Rag
Willie "The Lion" Smith - Piano, vocals
Don Ewell - Piano (tracks 1-6, 8-14)
giants of stride piano came together for this
live album, recorded at the Golden Nugget
in Toronto in 1966. Previously the same year,
they had recorded together for the studio
album Grand Piano but this was the
first time they were recorded in concert.
They were recorded by promoter David Gillman
but the tapes were never released until Gillman's
widow gave them to Delmark Records, so this
is their first appearance on disc.
"The Lion" Smith was, of course, one of the
doyens of stride piano, a distinctive character
with his big cigar, derby hat and extrovert
manner. Willie was much admired by other pianists,
and Duke Ellington even wrote a tribute to
him: Portrait of The Lion. Don Ewell
was the younger of the two - 50 years old
to Willie's 69 when they recorded together.
styles were very similar - and therein lies
one of the problems with this album. It is
often difficult to tell the two men apart,
and there is no stereo separation to help
distinguish between them. The Lion may be
the more powerful player but he is matched
by Ewell - the only contrast between them
being that Willie often shouts and makes comments
while they are playing. Here Comes the
Band gives us a chance to hear Willie
playing on his own.
Lion's age was beginning to show, so that
he couldn't always manage the flowery passages
that once decorated his playing. Since both
men play in stride style, the bass lines often
overlap and even conflict with one another.
This is noticeable at the start of Sweet
Georgia Brown, where some wrong notes
and clashing rhythms make for a somewhat ragged
performance. But this is followed by a more
considered Georgia on my Mind, where
the two pianists stay out of each other's
way more successfully and collaborate instead
any rate, it is good to hear these two piano
giants clearly enjoying their sparring match.
And the live ambience adds to the excitement.
There are also incidental delights, like the
unexpected verse preceding Charleston.