Freddie Gambrell could be described as an alternative to Cecil Taylor in terms of extending the legacy of Art Tatum into postmodernism, the majority of his peers choosing to cut and run as if a reader confronted with the first half of this sentence. So much more alluring would be the combination of mysterious and mundane details out of which came his relatively brief time in the spotlight, at least by jazz standards.
Blinded as a teenager, Gambrell mastered enough instruments to humiliate even a multi-instrumentalist from Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. He learned violin at 11, later recorded on viola, was "introduced" to the public in the early '50s by maestro Chico Hamilton as a pianist in the "blind genius" category, and also played guitar, bass, and brass instruments from top to bottom. One of the strangest things about Gambrell -- which at the...Read more