A Final selection of previously unissued piano solos by JIMMY YANCEY
Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
Jimmy Yancey (p) solos Recorded in Chicago; Spring, 1939
Jimmy’s Stuff #2 (3:15)
Rolling the Stone (2:36)
Steady Rock Blues (2:55)
P.L.K. Special (3:04)
South Side Stuff (3:05)
How Long Blues #1 (2:59)
How Long Blues #2 (3:04)
Yancey’s Getaway (3:09)
This is the second Riverside LP made up of preciously unreleased, “lost” recordings by probably the foremost exponent of that special variation of blues piano known as “boogie woogie.” Like the first such collection (JIMMY YANCEY; a lost recording date – RLP 1028), these selections were originally made by Yancey in 1939 for Solo Art, a short-lived jazz label that concerned itself entirely with pianists playing in a blues-or-barrelhouse vein. As the present album should indicate, Solo Art was able to capture some remarkable jazz performances, but it was unable to stay in business long enough to issue all of them.
In fact, quite a few master records, by Yancey and by Cripple Clarence Lofton, disappeared from view for almost fifteen years after the company ceased operation. Riverside, having acquired rights to this material at about the time it was located again, has been able to bring about its belated initial presentation to the jazz public.
Jimmy Yancey was teacher, influence or inspiration to almost every boogie woogie pianist since the early 1920s, although he was largely known, outside of his own Chicago circles, only indirectly and by way of the great popular success eventually achieved 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 small, quiet, an apparently rather shy man who spent very little of his life as full-time musician (for two decades his regular job was as a groundskeeper 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: fast or slow, mournfully 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 discussing whether a player is ‘helped’ or ‘hindered’ by the absence of formal training or study; 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 ended his early career as a widely-traveled vaudeville singer and dancer) 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 others like him remained unchanged. Still later, when men like Ammons and Lewis helped turn boogie woogie into a household word, Jimmy was till 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 in the ‘20s, when just about every Chicago musician of nay ability made at least a few record sides, he stayed away from the studios. With a persistent reticence that must have been quite deliberate, he avoided recording until 1939. Then Dan Qualey, the jazz enthusiast who ran Solo Art to suite his own likings, was somehow able to persuade him where others had failed. Thereafter Yancey did set down enough examples of his widely-copied style (the firm, economical left-hand beat; the imaginative, plunging, forceful right hand) to insure that he will not be forgotten. Actually, Jimmy is now better represented on records than many far more prolific jazzmen: the bulk of his moderate output has been issued or reissued on LPs by several different companies.
Perhaps because Yancey did not record until after he had been crating blues and boogie woogie themes for many years, there are recurring patterns in all of his recorded work. Thus, several of the selections here suggest in part other, later numbers by him, Jimmy’s Stuff was one of the few Yancey titles issued by Solo Art; the version include here is an alternate take. With a single exception, this album is made up of original improvisations by the pianist; that exception is the traditional blues that was titled How Long Blues when it was formally set down for publication by blues singer Leroy Carr. This tune was a particular favorite of Yancey’s; its strains often crept into his playing, and this collection includes two far-from-identical treatments of it. Along with the other numbers, they help to demonstrate how much variety of mood and pace this impressive artist could find in its supposedly limited and stylized jazz piano form.
As for the ”mystery” of the several years’ disappearance of this material, it was apparently a matter of the Solo Art data having been in quite incompletely-catalogued form when it all passed into the hands of Circle Records. Thus, quite understandably, Circle wasn’t sure that they had these, or even that they existed. It was not until a certain amount of sorting-through occurred in connection with Riverside’s acquisition of all rights to Circle material that a small, unmarked metal box was turned up. In it were the several Yancey and Lofton masters, which proved to be a musical bonanza well worth the waiting for.
Other great jazz pianists are represented in the Riverside Jazz Archives Series, including:
Rediscovered Jelly Roll Morton Solos (RLP 1018)
Jelly Roll Morton: Classic Jazz Piano, Vols. 1 and 2 (RLPs 1038, 1041)
Rediscovered Fats Waller Solos (RLP 1010)
The Amazing Mr. Waller: Vol. 1 – Fats at the Organ (RLP 1021); Vol. 2 – Jivin’ with Fats (RLP 1022)
James P. Johnson: Early Harlem Piano, Vols. 1 and 2 (RLPs 101, 1046)
Harlem Party Piano: James P. Johnson and Luckey Roberts (RLP 1056)
Also, several other Riverside albums feature outstanding examples of the boogie woogie style. In addition to the preceding Yancey LP (RLP 1028), these include:
Pioneers of Boogie Woogie, Vols. 1 and 2 (RLPs 1009, 1034)
Boogie Woogie: Classic Blues Accompaniments (RLP 1052)
Cripple Clarence Lofton: a lost recording date (RLP 1037)
Jumpin’ with Pete Johnson (RLP 1053)
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Tape-editing by J. Robert Mantler
Cover art by Robert J. Lee; typographical design by Gene Gogerty
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.