Real jazz happens when the musicians really listen to one another. You, the listener after the fact, can hear this communication woven into the music itself. "D.A. Blues," played by Pee Wee Russell's Hot 4 with Jess Stacy at the piano, moves slowly enough for this dynamic to be spelled out as big as skywriting. "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now" works like a charm. The interplay among the four -- and especially between pianist and clarinetist -- is remarkable. It's emblematic of everything that Commodore Records ever stood for. The next session in the Jess Stacy chronology resulted in a fine crop of piano and drum duets. It is strange that Commodore didn't issue them at the time, but such decisions often seem odd many years later. These are really piano solos with gently percussive accompaniment -- about as gentle as Specs Powell ever played on record, in fact. That is, until the fast-paced "Ridin' Easy" and "Song of the Wanderer," where Stacy runs his hands like lightning over the keys and Powell responds with steamy licks of his own. What a shame it is that Jess Stacy's big band only managed to record enough music to fit on both sides of a single, 10" 78 rpm platter. "Daybreak Serenade" is a very pretty instrumental and Stacy's wife Lee Wiley sings "Paper Moon" splendidly. Just imagine what they could have accomplished given the opportunity to wax a few more sides. Instead what we get are one dozen examples of the Jess Stacy Quartet, recording for Capitol and Columbia during the summer of 1950. These are gorgeous reveries, heavily featuring the guitar of George Van Eps. This makes the second-half of the CD decidedly cool and relaxing, friendly and unobtrusive. Bassist Morty Corb walks briskly through the changes of "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," a melody still associated with Fats Waller even though he didn't write it. Waller's "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now" reappears, joyously stir-fried to perfection. This handsome collection of top-notch piano jazz ends with a virtuoso realization of Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist," something like Chantilly cream over strawberries after four courses.
by arwulf arwulf