Pianist Don Ewell (1916-1983) was a fellow that refused to change with the times - bebop & what followed had no impact on him at all - but in his case, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ewell was a specialist in stride piano (the ornate, limber, jovial, two-handed style of Fats Waller and James P. Johnson) and the style of the earlier gods of the piano like Jelly Roll Morton (who claimed to have "invented" jazz) and Earl "Fatha" Hines (a Pittsburgher who made some incredible recordings with Louis Armstrong in the 20s before going on his own). He even played with some old-school masters in their twilight years: Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden (another Armstrong associate) and George Lewis (no, not the avant-garde fellow).
This 2-CD set collects three
of DW’s albums in their entirety: Jazz On A Sunday Afternoon, A Jazz Portrait of the Artist
and Take It In Stride
, recorded 1967-1973. To modern ears, Ewell might sound a tad nostalgic and/or overly sentimental, but that’s part of the point: his style dates from a time when "wearing your heart on your sleeve" was a good thing, when it hadn’t yet become a tired cliché, when playing jazz was playing for
people’s enjoyment instead of "to" or "at" the audience. The 35 miniatures contained herein are gems of genial simplicity and remarkable technique simultaneously, along with plenty of genteel swing. And lest one think the style in which Ewell was immersed/entrenched is "irrelevant," listen closely and hear the roots of Thelonious Monk, Teddy Wilson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jaki Byard and even Cecil Taylor (yes, CT is a fan of the late stride master Joe Turner - again: no, not "Big" Joe Turner the blues singer). Hardcore acoustic piano & trad-jazz fans: this is worth saving-up for.