Various Artists

I Just Love Jazz Piano

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I Just Love Jazz Piano is, if not essential, certainly an enjoyable collection of early-'50s jazz piano. It is perhaps most interesting because it contains some early Herbie Nichols recordings, which pre-date his better-known releases on Blue Note and Bethlehem. Unfortunately, and certainly to his credit, Nichols, in 1952, was not the harmonically challenging soloist that he would later become. Otherwise, this collection includes material by pianists Hampton Hawes, Paul Smith, and John Mehegan. While Hawes' selections are nice, and Smith's interesting (because he doubles on piano and organ simultaneously), it is Mehegan who provides the most engaging set. Perhaps this is because he is joined by the strongest rhythm section on the LP: Charles Mingus and Kenny Clarke. Either way, his speedy rendition of "Cherokee" is a welcome change on an LP dominated -- to a fault, even -- by too many reserved, mid-tempo numbers.

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