2009-08-16

Battling the Jersey Rocket

Regarding my post on Willie The Lion Smith, Eubie Blake and Donald Lambert playing at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, superb stride pianist Mike Lipskin, who was Eubie's and The Lion's protégé, has written in the Stride Piano Yahoo group:

"The many times I was with Eubie at home, recording a 10 hours interview for the Rutgers Jazz Institute, he would often praise some pianist, and always do so about James P. Johnson, but just as often would talk of others and not praise them. I never heard him go overboard about Jelly Roll Morton or Scott Joplin as pianists, though he liked their compositions.

He loved Luckey Roberts and respected him very much. They were close friends. However, he once commented with a laugh that Luckey "ruined the voice of many singers" by not modulating if their range was in another key, but simply playing down or up one octave.

When he and Willie the Lion were on the bill with Donald Lambert at the Newport Jazz Festival, Lambert performed before they did. Eubie said to Willie "How the hell are we going to follow him?""

That's how even such stride/ragtime masters were scared of battling the Jersey Rocket!

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