Willie 'The Lion' Smith: Echoes of Spring


Echoes of Spring



Willie 'The Lion' Smith: 1938-1940 (Classics 677)

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Willie 'The Lion' Smith (piano).

Composed by Tausha Hammed, Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith & Clarence Williams


Recorded: New York, January 10, 1939


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

The 'Lion' liked to act and talk real tough, but paradoxically he was the Harlem stride master most interested in gauzy, impressionistic harmony and classically structured piano pieces. Duke Ellington always credited Smith as an important influence.

"Echoes Of Spring" features an unforgettable melody floating over arpeggios before the heat gets turned up a little bit. Although Smith never really plays the requisite left-hand 'oom-pah' in this piece, the stride feeling is there somehow.

I'm not sure if we always get the real deal with Smith's records. While his compositions are supremely beautiful, there is something occasionally self-conscious, rushed and even sloppy about his performances. Not everybody records as easily as the next person, and I wonder if the Lion was really comfortable in the studio.

Highly recommended is my pal Spike Wilner's book of Willie 'The Lion' Smith transcriptions with accompanying essay (The Lion of the Piano: 8 Piano Compositions by Willie 'The Lion' Smith). These wonderful compositions are surely ripe for an interesting contemporary repertory project.

Reviewer: Ethan Iverson

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