Richard Twardzik: A Crutch for the Crab
A Crutch for the Crab
Richard Twardzik (piano)
Russ Freeman / Richard Twardzik: Trio (Pacific Jazz: 46861)
Composed by Richard Twardzik.
Recorded: Hackensack, New Jersey, October 27, 1954
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
Twardzik, dead at age 24, left behind a small body of work, but enough to justify his inclusion in the short list of jazz piano masters of his generation. At a time when most of his peers were paring down their chords, Twardzik was adapting a modernistic orchestral palette to the keyboard. His melody lines were brittle with Bartokian bite. His rhythms were a higher order of syncopation, breaking free from the typical tyrannies of 4/4 swing. "A Crutch for the Crab" starts as a stately march suitable for a military procession, but soon deteriorates into a lopsided skirmish, and finally a free-for-all. There are many surprises here: hints of deranged Harlem stride, oddball walking chords, falling snowflakes of harmonic color alighting on the high register of the keyboard. Only a few jazz pianists of this period would have been able even to imitate this futuristic style back in 1953, let alone create it afresh.
Twardzik is a name unfamiliar to most younger jazz fans—or perhaps at best a name recognized but not an artist heard. What a shame! For this pianist understood, even better than Garner or Shearing or Peterson or the other stars of the early 1950s, the shape of jazz to come.
Note: Fans are advised the supposed "alternate take" of this song, is in fact the same as the master take, and that both have lost their opening measures on most extant copies of this recording.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia