Don Robertson pointed out this video on Facebook: perhaps it is new to you, as it was to me.
Nothing complicated: Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich playing together for the first time in thirty years, with Jimmy Rowles, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Jack Six, string bass — on the Merv Griffin Show in 1979. The songs — nothing complicated there, either — AS LONG AS I LIVE and I GOT RHYTHM. The “Sextet”: someone’s math was off that night.
Benny is in splendid form; Buddy, grinning wildly, offers masterful support and heroically beautiful brushwork throughout; Bucky and Jack are indispensably generous in their swing-pulse.
But what draws my attention throughout is Jimmy (I think he preferred “Jimmie,” so I apologize to him) Rowles. Once you’ve heard / seen the video once and admired the Stars, I beseech you to go back and listen solely to the piano.
THAT may not be the only way to play the piano — I am not going to be narrowly didactic here — but Rowles so beautifully fuses the worlds of 1940 Lester, Basie, Duke, and Ben, with the later worlds of Miles and Bird, Dizzy and Roach. And he always sounds like no one else.
Initially, you might say of a Rowles phrase or accent or voicing, “What is he doing?” and then it becomes both inevitable, perfectly right, and a choice only he could have made. It is the very opposite of formulaic playing; listening to him provides us with a series of lovely small gifts — “How did you know that was exactly what we wanted?” I miss Jimmie Rowles. I do.
This one’s for Michael Kanan.
May your happiness increase.