These performances make me think of Emerson’s words: “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

The music I refer to is that of the great improviser Mike Lipskin — spiritual heir of Willie “the Lion” Smith — and two songs he reimagined on Sunday, December 17, 2017, at that downtown and below-ground secret shrine for improvised music, Fat Cat.  I applaud Fat Cat for its eccentricities: it is truly A Scene, but one of the ubiquitous elements there is the roar of the young crowd, playing ping-pong, billiards, and other games.  Exuberant youth isn’t silent, except perhaps when sleeping or texting, so Mike had unsolicited and unmusical accompaniment, which he brilliantly triumphed over.  And please note that Mike isn’t just someone lining up one Waller module after the next: his playing is harmonically sophisticated, swinging along in its frisky gentle ways no matter what the tempo.  He’s a class act at the keyboard.

Here’s Mike’s delightful musings on SWEET AND LOVELY, aptly named:

And here’s Vincent Youmans’ spiritual exhortation, much loved by Fats and other Harlem cosmic magicians:

Thank you, Mike.  Come back soon and play some more!

May your happiness increase!

6 responses to “HE STRIDES RIGHT IN: MIKE LIPSKIN at FAT CAT (December 17, 2017)

  1. Don’t recall Mike ever playing Hallelujah. Of course, this was a staple of Donald Lambert, however, Mike’s version here owes more to Fats.

  2. I’ve heard him improvise on it in person, but this is the first video version he’s approved of.

  3. Fantastic playing, especially the small dissonances which he inserts here and there.
    I hope Mr Lipskin has some other quieter venue from which to launch his offerings…now and then.

  4. Mike does tend to play at places where people eat, drink, and talk, but he is reasonably undeterred. And I’ve videoed him a number of times in more peaceful surroundings. Remember his debut lp — with the Lion — CALIFORNIA HERE I COME — ? Memorable still.

  5. yes indeed I recall that LP with Lion. It still is on my record rack.

    In those days young people playing stride piano were a relative rarity. Good thing they were preserved in captivity and have been released back into the wild to spread the gospel. 🙂


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