If anyone out in CD land ever wondered what a Joe Sample solo piano album would sound like, here it is -- and it's a good bet that this is not what a Sample fan would expect. Rather than conform to the cerebral solo piano mainstream as exhaustively set forth in the "Maybeck" series, Sample's inspiration goes way, way back -- back to the teens and 1920s, to the formative, nearly-forgotten example of James Reese Europe, to the heydays of ragtime and stride. On this CD, the key for Sample is to make sure no one misses the missing bass and drums, to keep the pulse of jazz present as much as possible, with lots of thumping stride as a default mode. He does not disguise his heavyweight, full-fisted approach to the keyboard, and there are some occasionally clumsy moments when the line of thought strays. The repertoire is old, perhaps even ancient, at times a bit naive; When was the last time you heard "How You Gonna Keep `Em Down on the Farm?" on any new recording, let alone a jazz record? Gershwin gets his due ( a brittle "I Got Rhythm" and a sometimes whimsical ballad treatment of "Embraceable You"), so does Fats Waller ("Ain't Misbehavin," a staccato "Jitterbug Waltz"), Scott Joplin (a somewhat hesitant "The Entertainer"), and Jelly Roll Morton (a jaunty "Shreveport Stomp"). There are also a pair of Sample originals in a contemplative manner ("Soul Shadows" and "Spellbound"). Although smooth jazz outlets probably won't touch this sampling of Sample, antiquarians will be intrigued.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell