2009-04-14

The Lion, The Lamb & Eubie Blake at Newport '60

In the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, boisterous spectators created a major disturbance, and 12,000 college students were finally tamed by the state police, National Guard and the U.S. Marines. Poet Langston Hughes, with the strong conviction that the disturbances would mean the end of the festival, wrote an impromptu lyric, "Goodbye Newport Blues," that he brought to the Muddy Waters band onstage, where Waters pianist Otis Spann sang it:

I got to keep up singing
Though I got the Newport blues . . .
Those sad, bad Goodbye Newport blues


In this crowdy and tumultuous environment, the performance of ragtime and stride pianists like Eubie Blake, Donald Lambert or Willie The Lion Smith could be seen like nothing more than an anachronism.




But, despite the poor image and sound quality and the strange feet fetishism of the camera man, we must be thankful for having these six videos, where we can watch, for example, Donald Lambert playing his amazing arrangement of Grieg’s “Anitra’s Dance”, with an artistic level at least as high as his famous January 30, 1941 Bluebird recording, or The Lamb and Eubie Blake playing together on James P. Johnson’s “The Charleston”. This is the only recorded duet between Lambert and anyone else (he apparently did some duet work with Paul Seminole in the 1920's, but no recordings survive) and it gets so good near the end that surprisingly the audience clamors for more (MORE!) and of course they have to do a few more choruses, this time with the Danny Barker group joining in.

Otherwise, aural evidence confirms that these "Liza" and "Anitra's Dance" performances by Donald Lambert are those included in the Storyville CD Donald Lambert - Recorded 1959-1961 (Storyville 101 8376). Storyville is incorrectly listing those tracks as being recorded on July 7, 1960, when the Lamb appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival was positively on July 1, 1960 (check the New York Times review from July 2, 1960).


































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