Herman Chittison


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The surest way to describe Herman Chittison's style is to compare him with the greatest jazz pianists on the scene during the 1940s. First and foremost he drew harmonic and dexterous inspiration from Art Tatum. This influence is most obvious in the constant tide of arpeggios and a breathtaking facility that could be traced back to the great James P. Johnson, root of Tatum's own brilliance. But there are other pianists who need to be mentioned, as they were active during these years and shared some of the same ground with Chittison. The hip exactitude of Nat King Cole in particular comes to mind, an impression that is magnified by the smooth guitars of Jimmy Shirley and Carl Lynch. The spirit of Fats Waller is palpable, especially during the opening session, which took place less than three weeks after Waller's sudden death at the age of 39. The presence of Waller's long-term bassist Cedric Wallace might have had something to do with it. Like Waller, Donald Lambert and Willie "The Lion" Smith, Herman Chittison enjoyed creating jazz interpretations of European classical melodies. Examples included here are themes by Schubert, Lehar and Chopin. Let's not forget Bud Powell and his mind-blowing variations on a theme by J.S. Bach. With Chittison, we are looking forward in Powell's direction while maintaining sensible contact with the Fats Waller tradition, wonderfully represented by about two minutes' worth of "Persian Rug," a dazzling performance you end up wishing had lasted at least five minutes longer! Herman Chittison possessed the ability to render jazz standards like "The Song Is Ended" and "My Old Flame" with exceptional soul and grace, almost as though the trio were playing the blues rather than popular ballads. This pianist worked for years in Europe and North Africa, polishing his style in nightclubs of every description. This explains the sophistication that pervades all of his phonograph recordings. Two sentimental vocals by Thelma Carpenter fit in nicely with the rest of the selections, almost as if one were dining at a club in Egypt during the autumn of 1938 and a group of Americans are purveying tasteful jazz under a desert moon. Five piano solos, four from 1945 and one stray side recorded in Paris in the spring of 1934, reinforce these daydream impressions.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:53
2 3:16
3 2:18
4 2:01
5 2:51
6 2:24
7 3:26
8 3:30
9 2:11
10 3:04
11 3:08
12 3:03
13 2:41
14 2:56
15 2:46
16 3:07
17 3:08
18 2:53
19 3:01
20 2:15
21 3:04
22 2:30
23 2:52
24 3:03
blue highlight denotes track pick