Luckey Roberts: Complainin'
Luckey Roberts (piano)
Luckey & The Lion: Harlem Piano (Good Time Jazz 10035)
Luckey Roberts (piano).
Composed by Luckey Roberts.
Recorded: New York, March 18, 1958
Rating: 88/100 (learn more)
Small in stature, Luckey Roberts was a giant among Harlem stride pianists. Yet by the time of this 1958 session for Lester Koenig's revivalist Good Time Jazz Records, Luckey was among jazz's forgotten men. Moreover, his name notwithstanding, he'd suffered a series of personal mishaps, including an automobile wreck that shattered his hands and, only weeks before this recording, a stroke. Any one of these setbacks by itself would explain a poor performance; taken together, they'd excuse almost anything. But Luckey Roberts was, to quote Nat Hentoff's liner notes, "indomitable"—too talented and, yes, too damn proud to make anything less than memorable music.
So, if there was any complaining to do, Luckey would do it in song. "Complainin'," his own composition, is part Debussy, part Scott Joplin, and all Luckey. It's a delightful, bluesy yet dignified rag that, at a scant 3 minutes long, magnetically attracts your thumb to the Repeat button again and again. While his execution may not be letter perfect, Luckey Roberts raises "Complainin'" to an art through his irrepressible warmth, humanity and survivor's dignity. Indomitable indeed.
Reviewer: Alan Kurtz