Don Shirley (p), Ken Fricker (b), Juri Taht (cello)
Reference: BMCD 899
Bar code: 8427328008990
· Collector's Edition
· Issued in Digipack
· 2 Original LPs on 1 CD
· Original Cover Art and New Liner Notes
· Stereo Recordings
· Newly Remastered in 24-Bit
Don Shirley (1927-2013) was a classical and jazz pianist and composer, who went down as one of the great keyboard talents of his time. A “graduate” of the supper club-hotel-theater-dance hall circuit, Shirley drew wide critical acclaim when he appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Show to rave reviews by all the musical journals. This led to his being praised in editorials in a number of publications, which, in turn, brought further recognition. Shirley’s controversial style stemmed from his use of some of the more serious forms and techniques along with the more popular music and jazz forms.
He attracted further attention when in 1955, he played a piano concerto written for him by Duke Ellington, accompanied by the Symphony of the Air at Carnegie Hall, in New York City. He was in constant demand as a soloist after that, for personal appearances in clubs all over the country, as well as on radio and TV. Most listeners were baffled when they heard Shirley play for the first time, as he played jazz in a way they had never heard it played before. But those who knew his playing best talked of his unique “quiet sound,” which is as individual and personal as the man himself.
"One of the best movies of 2018 was Green Book which depicted a road trip by pianist Don Shirley (1927-2013) through the segregated South in 1962. While it was a chance for audiences to discover the music of Shirley, few of his recordings are in print since he spent much of his career recording for the tiny Cadence label.
Piano, which has been compiled by the Spanish Blue Moon label, has reissued all of the music from two former Lps (Piano and The Don Shirley Trio) as a single CD. Shirley, who was trained to be a classical pianist but was discouraged from fully entering the field as a performer due to the racism of the 1950s (although he continued writing works that would be performed by symphony orchestras), created his own brand of jazz. While he improvised and could play quite bluesy, he was just as interested in folk melodies and was never shy about displaying his impressive classical technique.
On these recordings from 1959-60, Shirley is joined by bassist Ken Fricker and cellist Juri Taht with tumbadora added on three pieces and French horn on four. Much of the repertoire is comprised of swing standards including a four-song Billie Holiday tribute. Of the lesser-known material, Shirley performs “Blues For Basses,” “Dites-Moi,” “In A Moorish Market Place,” “Adieu Madraz,” a medley of “Freedom” and “I’m On My Way,” and “Water Boy.” The latter was his one hit, a hypnotic performance that was on the Billboard charts at #40.
Piano is a perfect introduction to Don Shirley’s often-overlooked recordings as he comes up with fresh but affectionate interpretations of both standards and obscure material, playing in his own original style."
Scott Yanow (October, 2019)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"The late 50s and early 60s had a surfeit of jazz pianists. This is one that had his moment of sunshine, have drifted into under-served obscurity and have resurfaced thanks to the painstaking detective work of Blue Moon Records.
Don Shirley (1927-2013) was a pianist that combined classical and jazz sensibilities in a seductive chamber atmosphere. He had a unique trio that included bassist Ken Fricker and cellist Juri That, melding bowing the higher strings with the plucked lower ones to create a rich texture and implied pulse. This disc is from a pair of sessions. The February 1959 one includes the tumbdora and French horn on a handful of tracks, of which “Satin Doll” is quite high class and “The Way You Look Tonight” is a gorgeous sonata, with the tri flowing on ‘Happy Talk.”
The July 1960 session has exotic Middle Eastern bowing for a clever “In A Moorish Market” with Shirley going mostly solo with elegance on “When Your Lover Has Gone.” An almost eight minute Billie Holiday medley is filled with restrained style, with a version included of “Easy Living” that contrasts with his ’59 reading to show that he had the heart of an improviser. Classy!
This reissue includes original liner notes, session notes, artist personnel and some background to the musicians."
George W. Harris (August 19, 2019)