Yancey’s Getaway: Piano solos by JIMMY YANCEY
Jazz Archives #100(12”)
Recorded in Chicago; Spring, 1939
1. Jimmy’s Stuff #2 (3:15)
2. Rolling the Stone (2:36)
3. Steady Rock Blues (2:55)
4. P. L. K. Special (3:04)
5. South Side Stuff (3:05)
6. Yancey’s Getaway (3:08)
1. La Salle Street Breakdown (3:02)
2. Two O’Clock Blues (2:56)
3. Janie’s Joy (2:56)
4. Lean Bacon (3:06)
5. Big Bear Train (3:07)
6. Lucile’s Lament (3:06)
JIMMY YANCEY was teacher, influence or inspiration to almost every boogie woogie pianist since the early 1920’s, although he was largely known, outside of his own Chicago circles, only indirectly and by way of the great popular success eventually achieved, at the turn of the 1940s, by such followers of his as Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons.
“Papa Jimmy” is surely deserving of being rated as one of the major figures in jazz history. Yet in many respects he seems a most unlikely candidate for such honors. If you are looking for a colorful, bawdy, freewheeling life story, to fit the standard stereotype of a legendary jazz musician, Yancey is not your man. He was a small, quiet, apparently rather shy man who spent very little of his life as a full-time musician (for two decades his regular job was as a groundkeeper at the ball park of the Chicago White Sox). Nor can he be cited for schooled technique, or for broad variety. He played a rough-hewn, heavily rhythmic blues piano, which could be fast or slow, mournful or leaping with joy. That’s about all he ever played – but it was certainly enough, considering that he played it as well or better than anyone else could ever hope to. There is little point in being concerned with whether a musician is “helped” or “hindered” by the absence of formal training; the facts in this instance are that the kind of jazz Yancey turned to was one that belonged almost exclusively to unlettered, even crude, musicians, and that his greatness was that of a man who felt and understood what he was playing, rather than having been taught it.
From before the ‘20s (when he arbitrarily cut short his early career as a widely-travelled vaudeville dancer and singer) until his death late in 1953, Jimmy lived in Chicago. When his kind of jazz flourished on the South Side, Yancey was to be found at the fabulous all-night “rent parties,” or sitting with musician friends in some back-street joint, or sometimes holding down a solo job in a small club. Later, when the tides of jazz moved in other directions, Yancey and men like him remained unchanged. Still later, when Ammons, Lewis and others helped turn boogie woogie into a household word, Jimmy was still apt to be found playing his blues in some friend’s apartment or some out-of-the-way bar. He seemed always inclined to let others struggle for fame: even back in the ‘20s, when just about every Chicago musician of any ability at all made at least a few record sides, he stayed away from the studios. With a persistent reticence that must have been deliberate, he avoided recording until 1939. Then Dan Qualey, the jazz fan who ran the Solo Art record label t suit his own linking, was somehow able t persuade him where others had failed. Thereafter did set down on various records enough examples of his widely-copied style (the firm, economical left-hand beat; the imaginative, forcefully plunging right hand) to insure that he will not be forgotten.
There are actually recurring patterns in all of Yancey’s recorded work, perhaps because he did not begin to record until after he had been creating and playing blues and boogie woogie themes for so many years. Thus several of the numbers here, although presumably on-the-spot improvisations, undoubtedly echo some of his playing of the ‘20s, and unquestionably were themselves to be echoed in part by other, later Yancey recordings. But this familiarity makes little difference: in boogie woogie piano, where the form is fairly rigid, it is the emotional impact of the contents that counts for just about all. And surely these examples of the work of this impressive ‘natural’ artist have a compelling excitement and power that will not often be equaled.
Solo Art was a short-lived jazz label that concerned itself entirely with pianists playing in a blues or barrel-house vein. It captured some important basic-jazz performances, but was unable to stay in business long enough to issue all of them. In fact, these Yancey recordings were among several master records that disappeared from view for more than a decade. When Solo Art passed into the hands of Circle Records, this material was apparently mislaid. It was not until a certain amount of sorting-through occurred in connection with Riverside’s acquisition of rights to Circle material, late in 1953, that a small unmarked metal box was uncovered and turned out to contain several “lost” masters, enabling Riverside to bring about their belated initial presentation to the jazz public.
This material was originally issued as part of the 10-inch Riverside LPs 1028 and 1061. (Jimmy’s Stuff is designated as “#2” to identify it as an alternate take of one of the few Yancey items issued by Solo Art.) These dozen selections are now combined for the first time in 12-inch LP form.
Riverside’s “Jazz Archives” Series includes several other 12-inch albums of outstanding performances by major figures of traditional jazz –
Giants of BOOGIE WOOGIE: Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Pete Jonnson (RLP 12-106)
Young LOUIS ARMSTRONG (RLP 12-101)
LOUIS ARMSTRONG: 1923 – with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (RLP 12-122)
BIX BEIDERBECKE and the Wolverines (RLP 12-123)
Young FATS WALLER (RLP 12-103)
The Amazing MR. WALLER: piano, organ, voice (RLP 12-109)
JELLY ROLL MORTON: Classic Piano Solos (RLP 12-111)
N.O.R.K. – New Orleans Rhythm Kings with Jelly Roll Morton (RLP 12-102)
JAMES P. JOHNSON: Rare Early Solos (RLP 12-105)
JOHNNY DODDS: New Orleans Clarinet (RLP 12-104)
MUGGDY SPANIER: Chicago Jazz (RLP 12-107)
MA RAINEY: Classic Blues (RLP 12-108)
The Golden Age of RAGTIME (RLP 12-110)
NEW ORLEANS LEGENSD: Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson, Kid Rena (RLP 12-125)
Special album sets of great historic value include –
HISTORY OF CLASSIC JAZZ: all the great names of traditional jazz – five 12-inch LPs in deluxe album
package: plus 20,000 word introductory essay by critic-historian Charles Edward Smith (SDP-11)
COLEMAN HAWKINS: A Documentary – a great jazz figure speaks fully and frankly on men and music of three decades; newly recorded in his own words (set of 12-inch LPs) (RLP 12-117/18)
Re-mastered, 1957, by Reeves Sound Studios
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Paul Weller (photography) and Paul Bacon (design)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.