But mere recordings and videos don’t entirely summon up the romping momentum and good humor of this entirely complete player / vocalist / understated showman. Carl does nothing more dramatic than pat his foot, adjust his glasses, speak softly to the audience between sips of water. But he’s a jazz and blues volcano, someone whose motion is perpetual and perpetually exciting. On the surface, he might initially sound like “a boogie-woogie pianist,” which he is — but he has (like Pete Johnson) tugged at the form to make it less restrictive. He isn’t locked into eight-to-the-bar and his swing is ferocious but light, with echoes of Hines and Fats and Stacy woven into a beautifully organic style.
In this session, he had the finest musical comradeship in bassist Marty Eggers and drummer Jeff Hamilton (“our” Jeff Hamilton, I will point out). The teamwork of this trio is sensational. Marty plays the bass with the grace and fervor of Pops Foster or Milton John Hinton, no less. And Jeff could swing a seventeen-piece band with just his hi-hat, and creates swaying columns of sound all over his set.
Without a hint of antiquarianism, we’re back in the Thirties with Little Brother Montgomery’s SHREVEPORT FAREWELL:
Groovy as a ten-cent movie! Jimmy Yancey’s JIMMY’S ROCKS:
Sad, wistful, and blue: W.C. Handy’s variations on a folk lament, LOVELESS LOVE:
A favorite rag, BLAME IT ON THE BLUES:
Just an ordinary BOOGIE WOOGIE, inspired by Meade Lux Lewis:
For my dear Aunt Ida Melrose, a rocking OH, BABY:
YANCEY SPECIAL (plus litigation):
You made me what I am today — that’s THE CURSE OF AN ACHING HEART:
Carl’s own RAT CATCHER’S BLUES, funny and gruesome too. To paraphrase Ogden Nash, “I’d hate to be / the rat / That Carl is angry / At.”:
An exuberant HINDUSTAN BOOGIE:
And a romping set closer for Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner, ROLL ‘EM PETE:
Want to learn more? Visit http://www.carlsonnyleyland.com., http://www.jeffhamiltonjazz.com. It doesn’t seem that Marty has his own website — he has bigger and better things to do (such as play the bass in a way that reminds me of Walter Page) — but you can find him in many places online and in real life.
Carl Sonny Leyland is so much more authentic than James Baldwin’s story.
THE MUSICIANS GIVE US SO MUCH: CLICK HERE!