Willie "The Lion" Smith

Lion Roars: His Greatest 1934-44

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Although Willie "The Lion" Smith made some recordings during the 1920s, this Living Era compilation focuses exclusively upon the years 1934-1944, a time period that found the Lion operating as a soloist and in cahoots with such memorable characters as Clarence Williams, Banjo Ikey Robinson, and the Alabama Jug Band; clarinetists Mezz Mezzrow, Buster Bailey, and Rod Cless; trumpeters Frankie Newton, Dave Nelson, Max Kaminsky, and Charlie Shavers; saxophonists Benny Carter, Bud Freeman, Pete Brown, and Sidney Bechet; guitarists Albert Casey, Eddie Condon, and Everett Barksdale; bassists John Kirby, Jack Lesberg, and Wellman Braud; and percussionists Floyd Casey, O'Neill Spencer, Manzie Johnson, George Wettling, and Chick Webb. Fortified with such a dizzying wealth of jazz talent, this is a veritable gold mine of classic small-band swing and Harlem stride piano. Eight of these tracks were originally issued as by Willie "The Lion" Smith & His Cubs, a small swing band of variable size and instrumentation. There is a jousting lesson with pianist Joe Bushkin and an emotionally charged rendering of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" by the Sidney Bechet Trio. The Lion's unaccompanied piano solos are well-chosen examples of his eloquent artistry, a force that exerted a healthy influence upon Duke Ellington.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:41
2 2:51
3 3:24
feat: Mezz Mezzrow
feat: Mezz Mezzrow
feat: Mezz Mezzrow
7 2:45
8 2:36
9 2:38
10 2:46
11 2:55
12 3:17
13 2:52
14 2:44
15 2:40
16 2:37
17 2:45
18 3:00
19 2:54
20 2:37
21 2:34
22 2:30
feat: Max Kaminsky
feat: Max Kaminsky
blue highlight denotes track pick