Harold Corbin (p), Spanky DeBrest (b), Eddie Campbell (d)
Reference: FSRCD 1667
Bar code: 8427328616676
Pianist Edwin Harold Corbin (1933-1962) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he began classical piano study when he was seven. At 20 he switched from classical to popular music and formed his own trio, working daytime as a city inspector and supplementing his income by playing as house pianist in several Philadelphia jazz spots until 1961. That year, he composed and recorded Soul Sister, which became a local hit single on the 20th Century label (tracks 11 & 12) and led to a contract with the Roulette Recording Company and top booking engagements.
In his debut album for Roulette, he revealed an eclectic style influenced by some of the greatest on the instrument, such as Garner and Jamal. He had the ability to write pieces redolent of his era, at times allied to a certain flair for fashionable funkmanship. His touch is percussive, spicing his lines with emphatic chord voicings, but he soloes with honest, unflashy guts. The effortlessly swinging support by Spanky DeBrest and Eddie Campbell is sensitive and restrained throughout, lending this set the easy, unforced quality. This was a persuasively driving and unaffected trio. Unfortunately, Corbins career ended in tragedy when he died of an overdose on April 1st, 1962, less than five months after the release of this album.
"Philadelphian pianist Corbin raised eclecticism to high endeavour, dropping common-time chords on the first and third beats, Jamal-style, or strumming on all four and adding rubato effects to imitate Erroll Garner. Despite, or because of, the borrowings, he boosted the status of the house pianist and in 1961 wrote a hit called Soul Sister, which appears twice on this album, the bonus track version with Our Love Is Here To Stay originally forming a single with flip side. The tune appealed to jazz's populous fringes, to whom Corbin deferred elsewhere with direct, funky and percussive playing.
Moderate commercial success Corbin was no Brubeck continued with the rest of this album, distributed on the Roulette label, and with corollary club dates, but was cut short by the pianist's death from a narcotics overdose in 1962, less than five months after its release.
As a composer Corbin was no slouch. He could write a half-decent ballad (René) but also an inferior one (Caroline, a Latinised and surely tongue-in-cheek pastiche of Tangerine). His originals on the album were clearly written with his own style in mind and with a view to how he could get them up and running with an honest and sustained, if unspectacular, attack. DeBrest and Campbell help him concentrate on the main locomotory business.
Like all inspired unoriginals, Corbin was easy to listen to. It might have been interesting to have heard him live, when he might have had more to say than his commercially circumscribed persona probably allowed. It's an extra-musical but depressingly familiar cultural note to record that the emergency police wagon summoned to get him to hospital after his collapse took seven hours to arrive."
-Nigel Jarrett (Jazz Journal, February 2015)
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