Willie “The Lion” Smith & Don Ewell – Stride Piano Duets
Delmark DE 249
Compact Disc (2008)
In the 1920s, Willie “The Lion” Smith was considered one of the big three of stride piano, along with James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. He was an influence on the young Duke Ellington. Although he was a braggart and (with his cigar and trademark derby hat) appeared to be a rough character, Smith was actually more colorful than menacing and a very sophisticated pianist. Because he remained active into the early ’70s, Willie “The Lion” Smith was considered a living link to the glory days of early jazz. A major if underrated pianist, Don Ewell started leading his own trios in Baltimore in the mid-’30s; played during the New Orleans jazz revival (starting in the mid-’40s) and was with Jack Teagarden during 1957-1964. Ewell moved to New Orleans, where he worked regularly during his last years. This 1966 date, recorded live at the Golden Nugget in Toronto, features solo performances by Smith, Ewell and duets by the two.