Bob Haggart

The Piano Giants at Bob Haggart's 80th Birthday Party

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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden

One of the top jazz parties, the March of Jazz, was inaugurated in 1994 by honoring bassist Bob Haggart's 80th birthday. The focus of this compilation, however, is on three first-rate pianists who excel in any setting, though bass and drums are added on only five of the 13 tracks. Derek Smith hasn't recorded as a leader nearly as often as either Dick Hyman or the late Ralph Sutton, but it isn't for lack of technique. He's joined by Haggart and drummer Bobby Rosengarden for "Love for Sale," which begins with Smith's dreamy introduction before the rhythm section kicks things up a notch. Smith's duets with Sutton include a memorable "Honeysuckle Rose" (incorporating the often omitted verse) and a lighthearted (but not lightweight) "Sunday." Hyman, who has recorded entire albums of piano duets with each of his fellow ticklers, revives the oldie but goodie "Sleep" with Smith, while he and Sutton deliver a stride piano lover's delight with a dazzling "Somebody Stole My Gal." Hyman improvises around Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist," retaining the flavor of the original work while building upon it, even though most pianists opt to stick closer to the manuscript. Sutton doesn't really need a rhythm section for "Alligator Crawl," but Haggart and Rosengarden are discreet in their accompaniment. Milt Hinton, nearing the end of his six-decade-long career as a performer, takes Haggart's place for Smith's fun-filled take of "The Jitterbug Waltz." Proceeds from the sale of this CD benefit a scholarship in memory of Bob and Windy Haggart at the University of Miami; the music on this highly recommended CD should also kindle interest for many fans in attending future editions of the March of Jazz.

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