King Fleming (p), Rail Wilson, Malachi Favors, Melvin Jackson (b), Royce Rowan, William Cochran (d), Aubrie Jones (perc), Charles Stepney (vib)
Reference: FSRCD 834
Bar code: 8427328608343
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Pianist Walter (King) Fleming was born in Chicago on May 4, 1922. After some years of playing by ear, he got formal instruction in classical and religious music. He graduated from McKinley High School on the West Side, and later at the Midwest College of Music. From 1939 to 1943 he headed his own swing bands around Chicago. After his discharge from the Army in late 1945, Fleming spent some time in Los Angeles, where he got his first recording opportunities accompanying R&B singers for small labels, as well as a few good jazz singers.
Settled again in Chicago, he continued his career playing in clubs for several years trying to achieve a commercial success and developing a more individual approach sometimes reminiscent of an early Ahmad Jamal. Although he was highly praised for his arrangements of two Lorez Alexandria albums, he remained a relatively unsung pianist, and sometimes unfairly dismissed player, so the gentle and warm sonority of these performances may surprise some. There is a variety of mood, spirit and tempo in these three albums, Misty Night (1960), Stand By (1962) and The Weary Traveler (1965). On them, Fleming delivers smoothly swinging and fluent, fresh melodic ideas, while bassists Rail Wilson, Malachi Favors and Melvin Jackson, and drummers Royce Rowan and William Cochran offer ideal support.
This album is an homage to King Fleming, an unwavering pianist who remained active and involved with the Chicago jazz scene until his death in April 2014 at age 91.
"Unlike many who embraced the jazz life as musicians, King Fleming lived to be 91, departing this world on April 2014. He remained throughout that long life in his native Chicago which maybe accounts for the fact that he was little known and will, I suspect, be even less remembered. Even so, Fresh Sound have done us all a service by collecting three of his Argo/Cadet LPs on two CDs. Hes not the most original of pianists but there is depth and invention on most of these titles. There is also a good balance between solid standards and original compositions, most of the latter being attractive themes.
Fleming frequently preferred the treble register for his improvisations and inevitable comparisons will be made with Ahmad Jamal. The fact that they shared Chicago residence and record companies is also unlikely to go unnoticed. Fleming digs into Teach Me Tonight with a lyrical favouring to his flowing interpretation. He also sounds comfortable and natural on the blues with Imported Blues and Junction City Blues being standout tracks. There are also good improvised lines to be heard on unlikely vehicles such as Green Leaves Of Summer. Support by all the bassists and drummers involved is fine although they are, in the main, restricted to support roles throughout. Those tinkling treble notes and repetitive segments bother me, sounding too much like Jamal for comfort, but there is plenty of straightforward, unpretentious, melodic mainstream jazz on offer throughout these sides."
-Derek Ansell (Jazz Journal, November 2014)
"King Fleming just left this earth to his eternal destiny on April 1 of this year at the tender age of 94. I only wish I had heard of him, as well as heard him sooner, but at least we have this 2 disc testimony of his career to let us know what weve missed.
He mostly kept a low profile in the Chicago area. How come I missed him when I went there? Anyway, get a load of these three sessions from 1960, 62 and 65 whe he fronts a (mostly) trio in the Windy City. Hes got a mix of Ahmad Jamals spaciousness and rhythm, Errol Garners rollicking joy and Ramsey Lewis soul all throughout here. Just let a piece likeOvert run over you like a joyful steamroller. Other times, he chimes like a church bell as on Moonlight In Vermont or cascades on On Green Dolphin Street. As far as swinging, hell take you to Kansas City on One O Clock Jump and bounces with delight on Taking a Chance on Love. The trio on 60s Misty Night includes unknowns Rail Wilson/b, Royce Rowan/d and a few cameos by AUbrie Jones. For 1962s Stand By, Malachi Favors comes to the bass roll, and Charles tepney adds vibes on a lyrical Time Out and Song of Paradise. Flemings trio for the 1965 The Weary Traveler has Melvin Jackson/b and William Cochran/dr, all as obscure as this pianist, and youll scratch your head wondering why, as the interplay on all these bands is as gently sympathetic as anything Ahmad Jamal was doing at the same time. Youre gonna love this one!"
George W. Harris (November 3, 2014)