Jay McShann: After Hours
Jay McShann (piano)
After Hours (Storyville STCD 8279)
Jay McShann (piano).
Recorded: Copenhagen, April 12, 1977
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
For much of the 1930s, Kansas City was one of the swingin'est places in creation. As Albert Murray wrote in Stomping the Blues, "what Kansas City musicians are most widely celebrated for is the drive with which they swing the blues," and it "becomes good-time music because they always maintain the velocity of celebration." The peak of that celebration occurred in the late hours at the great K.C. night spots like the Reno Club, the Cherry Blossom, or Piney Brown's Sunset Club (especially in the early-to-mid 1930s). The famous Count Basie band was far from the only musical force heating up those night spots. Pianist Jay McShann was another maestro of the keyboards who made musical magic there (his later 1930s band also gave apprenticeship to a young Charlie Parker).
In spirit, this track celebrates the after-hours jam sessions that were the heart and soul of K.C. blues/jazz. McShann was 68 years old when he wonderfully evoked those great Kansas City music nights of old in this nearly five-minute, excellently recorded track. His piano solo work here presents the distilled essence of those soulful blues, played with drive and verve; "the velocity of celebration" indeed. This is harmonically rich, passionately-played blues, with great dynamics; the first minute alone is worth the price of admission. It is also widely-accessible music that many who are not core jazz fanciers will enjoy.
Reviewer: Dean Alger