Eddie Condon always considered Joe Sullivan to be a worthy stand-in for Fats Waller, which is one hell of a nice recommendation. Protracted opportunities to hear this guy playing solo piano are uncommon enough, but the material presented on this disc is positively rare. Sullivan's musical choices are delightful. "Squeeze Me" was one of Fats Waller's first substantial compositions, possibly dating back to 1919. Near the end of his brief life, Fats recorded several versions of "The Moon Is Low." In 1944 the song was strongly associated with Waller, almost as if he had composed it himself. "I Got It Bad" is an archetypal study in blue, painted by Duke Ellington and his star tenor, Ben Webster. "Memories of You" is still Eubie Blake's most famous melody, with good reason. Sullivan gleans the nectar from each of these tunes, savoring every passage in what Ruby Braff would eventually refer to as the "Adoration of the Melody." Sullivan's own compositions include a whimsical set of "Reflections." "The Bass Romps Away" is a major boogie, and "24 Hours at Booth's" a minor woogie. Joe Sullivan's Quintette is the centerpiece of this fine collection. Beginning with "Night and Day," listeners are treated to four excellent sides featuring clarinetist Archie Rosatie. "High Dudgeon," "Brushin' Off the Boogie," and the pared-down lament "Heavy Laden" are all Sullivan originals. Next come eight obscure sides recorded by Moses Asch for eventual release on his Folkways label. Sullivan swings as naturally as breathing. If you were to string his compositions together, you'd get a sort of autobiographical suite, where "Only a Dream," "Blues in My Heart," and "What a Life!" appear as separate entries in a private diary made public in the best imaginable way. The disc ends with a gorgeous example of what piano players used to call "chimes," and two distinct versions of "Fidgety Feet," right out of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band repertoire. An outstanding traditional jazz piano album, filled with echoes of Harlem, Chicago, and just a little bit of New Orleans.
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