Listeners will never suspect that the piano heard on this disc is being played by ten 90 year old fingers. Actually, they would be technically correct as Jay McShann was a mere 85 years old when he cut these tracks at The Montreal Bistro
McShann is probably the sole survivor of the heyday of Kansas City jazz which once included names like Count Basie, Ben Webster, Buster & Bennie Moten, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Mary Lou Williams, Dickie Wells and Buck Clayton. At ninety, the legendary pianist continues to play for eager audiences hungry to hear his nimble fingers on the keyboard. He doesn’t tour as much as a decade ago but he still manages to get around with the encouragement and aid of his many friends in the music business.
Jay "Hootie" McShann was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1916 and arrived in Kansas City in 1936 just after Count Basie went east. He formed a sextet in 1937 and a big band in ’39. By 1941, McShann had signed with the Decca label. That first band included drummer Gus Johnson, bassist Gene Ramey, singer Walter Brown and a nineteen year-old Charlie Parker. They traveled to the studios in Chicago six tunes. Jay McShann revives two of those pieces here with his quartet. Both "Hootie Blues" and Confessin’ The Blues" are the pianist’s own compositions. ASCAP lists a total of twenty six published works by the "Man from Muskogee."
McShann obviously still enjoys playing and gladly shares the spotlight with the fine some of Canada’s finest traditional players. Jim Galloway first came to our attention as the clarinetist with Jim McHarg’s Metro Stompers in 1966. The Metro Stompers eventually came under Galloway’s direction. Having recorded with Ralph Sutton, Art Hodes, Doc Cheatham, Allan Vache and two earlier sessions with McShann, he is considered a major played in North America. Galloway’s wife, Rosemary, is one of the finest bassists on the traditional jazz scene in Toronto. She has recorded with the Metro Stompers, Mose Scarlett, The Swing Sisters and Jackie Washington.
Don Vickery is a busy Toronto drummer who recently appeared on a fine album with pianist John Sheridan and cornetist Bob Barnard.
Blues broadcaster, Holger Peterson conducts a great 24 minute interview with McShann on a bonus track. The jazz pioneer speaks of his days in Oklahoma, his migration to Kansas City , Chicago and New York and of the musical styles heard along the way. His introduction to jazz was via the many blues and boogie piano players who frequented the bars of the southwest. He reminisces about many of the colorful musicians who became part of his band. At one point, McShann employed both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. His orchestra nearly became a bop outfit.
Both jazz and blues fans will enjoy McShann’s latest album. It’s a swinging session in every way.