Last month I blogged about my top 10 favorite jazz piano tracks, and this time around I’ll be looking at entire albums. In addition to using the same traditional definition of “piano trio” (e.g. acoustic piano, acoustic bass, drums), I’ll define “album” as something conceived and put together for release as a unified piece of work. So a Bud Powell compilation does not count, for example.
And away we go:
1.Phineas Newborn, Jr.: A World of Piano, with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones (Side A) and Sam Jones and Louis Hayes (Side B)
Ah yes, back to the days when LP sides actually meant something (I just can’t bring myself to say “tracks 1-4” instead of “Side A”). Anyway, I make no secret of my devotion to Phineas, and Side A of this record is a definitive statement of his artistry (notwithstanding the fact that The Piano Artistry of Phineas Newborn, Jr. is another album entirely). He plays his butt off on “Cheryl” and “Manteca, ” and then things really get ridiculous. He plays Lush Life with a Ravel-based intro, great lyricism, and a portion mid-way through where I swear it sounds like he has 3 hands (skillful use of the sostenuto pedal, I’m guessing, but I don’t really know). Following this is “Daahoud, ” 4:43 of some of most burnin’ jazz you will ever hear, period. Most amazingly, to me, he somehow imbues soul and blues feeling while playing perfect bop lines and shredding the changes at an extremely fast tempo. That Side B is a slight letdown is no shame, and every track there is fabulous as well, arguably highlighted by and even-faster version of “Oleo.”
2.Papa Jo Jones: Jo Jones Trio, with Ray Bryant and Tommy Bryant
Papa Jo Jones is, of course, best known for his work with Count Basie in the 1930s and ‘40s, but this 1958 session finds him at the top of his game, particularly on the utterly ridiculous drum feature “Old Man River, ” a stellar testament to the hipness of the greatest “old-school” musicians. The star here, though (at least to this pianist’s ears), is pianist Ray Bryant. Always a great player, composer and arranger, he is largely responsible for the amazingly tight trio arrangements that provide the basis for the incredibly swinging music here. The trio manages to sound extremely tight and polished but not the least bit sterile.