Andy Kirk: Walkin' and Swingin'


Walkin' and Swingin'


Andy Kirk (leader)


Andy Kirk: The Twelve Clouds of Joy (Living Era AJA 5108)

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Andy Kirk (leader), Mary Lou Williams (piano), Dick Wilson (tenor sax),

Harry Lawson, Paul King, Earl Thompson (trumpets), Ted Donelly, Henry Wells (trombones), John Williams (alto, baritone sax), John Harrington (alto sax, clarinet), Claude Williams (violin), Ted Brinson (guitar), Booker Collins (bass), Ed Thigpen (drums)


Composed by Mary Lou Williams


Recorded: New York, March 2, 1936


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

"Walkin' and Swingin'" is an excellent example of the work of this great Kansas City-based band and its principal arranger, Mary Lou Williams. It was not uncommon during the swing era for a band to be formed under the leadership of one individual, only to be subsequently taken over and re-named by another leader. Such was the fate of The Dark Clouds of Joy, originally led by a trumpeter named Terrence Holder, who in 1929 was forced to abandon his band due to family obligations. The band was re-named The Twelve Clouds of Joy under the leadership of Andy Kirk, a self-effacing but savvy tuba and bass sax player who had joined the Holder band in 1926. The Kirk band reached its creative peak when pianist Mary Lou Williams became the de-facto musical director. Kirk's band was slightly smaller and lighter sounding than most of the increasingly brass-heavy bands of the swing era and developed its own musical identity due to Mary Lou Williams' writing. She was also one of the band's two main soloists along with the great but short-lived tenor man Dick Wilson. The tune is a 32 bar Williams original stated with a light two-beat feel that shifts to a walking bass at the bridge. The theme is followed by a full chorus sax soli with trumpet lead that is beautifully written and executed. The last eight bars of this section contains the main motif of Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm' A 'Ning," which is fascinating considering Williams' well-known history as a mentor to the young Monk. Williams turns in a light-fingered stride-influenced chorus with the brilliant Dick Wilson taking the bridge. The out chorus is subtle and swinging with none of the razzle-dazzle hoopla usually employed by writers of such passages at the time.

Reviewer: Kenny Berger


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