Jay McShann

My Baby with the Black Dress On

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In the 20th Century, Jay McShann was documented in a variety of settings, everything from the big bands that made him famous in the 1940s to sextets and intimate trios. But the veteran pianist/singer has no band at all on My Baby With the Black Dress On, which finds an 82-year-old McShann playing unaccompanied solo piano aboard the S/S Norway (a cruise ship) in different parts of the Caribbean in December 1991. At 82, McShann didn't have the voice he once did, but his hands and fingers were still in great shape. His piano playing is as impressive as ever on inspired performances of "Stardust," "Body and Soul," and other well known standards. Because he doesn't have other musicians to worry about, McShann is all the more spontaneous and improvisatory, in fact, he didn't follow any lists of songs during his S/S Norway engagement of December 1991. If he decided to play "I'll See You in My Dreams" at a given moment, "I'll See You in My Dreams" is what the audience would hear. This CD falls short of essential, but it's a generally rewarding example of late period McShann.

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