Even when compared with his many albums of lounge, dance band and mood music, Living Era's tribute compilation Early Black Magic may serve as the ideal introduction to pianist, arranger and bandleader Stanley Black (1913-2002). That's because it provides genuine, substantial background for his later successes by focusing upon his remarkable adventures in the British jazz and dance band business between 1931 and 1951. Coleman Hawkins devotees might already recognize Stanley Black as the pianist who participated in a Parlophone recording date with the saxophonist on November 18, 1934, shortly after Hawkins crossed the Atlantic to begin a five-year tour of England and Europe. Living Era opens the album with all four selections from that historic session, then trundles out a fascinating array of English recordings in chronological sequence as if to say: "here's the rest of the story on that young man behind the keyboard." Cut when Black was only 18-years-old, "I Ain't Got Nobody" features a gruff vocal by trumpeter Nat Gonella; the band was billed as Stanley Black & His Oriole Modernists. Played by Howard Jacobs and his orchestra with a sweet vocal by Bill Airey Smith, "Trouble in Paradise" is most interesting for Black's keyboard effects, which he achieved using a Neo-Bechstein piano, a futuristic, electronically-augmented setup similar to the Novachord. The next phase in this Stanley Black retrospective finds him working with Lew Stone's band as one of two pianists on "I Won't Dance." Although Al Hoffman had plenty of harmonized female vocal support from the Radio Three, he sang both the boy and girl parts, with lines like "Y'know what? You're lovely." "So What? I'm lovely." This Janus-headed performance was closely based upon the Bluebird recording of "I Won't Dance" made four months earlier by Loretta Lee and Sonny Schuyler with George Hall & His Taft Hotel Orchestra. During the second half of the '30s Black's most important work was with "King of Hot-Cha" Harry Roy. As a member of Roy's highly successful orchestra Black engaged in piano duets with Norman Yarlett and studied a repertoire that included ragtime, classic jazz and melodies by George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. While touring South America with Roy's band in 1938, Black absorbed the continent's many diverse rhythms and musical textures, quickly developing a penchant for these traditions that would eventually become his trademark as he came to specialize in the rhumba, the tango and the cha cha.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
feat: Eric Winstone