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Willie "The Lion" Smith

Willie "The Lion" Smith in the 1920s was considered one of the big three of stride piano (along with James P. Johnson and Fats Waller) even though he made almost no recordings until the mid-'30s. His mother was an organist and pianist, and Smith started playing piano when he was six. He earned a living playing piano as a teenager, gained his nickname "the Lion" for his heroism in World War I, and after his discharge he became one of the star attractions at Harlem's nightly rent parties. Although he toured with Mamie Smith (and played piano on her pioneering 1920 blues record "Crazy Blues"), Smith mostly freelanced throughout his life. He was an influence on the young Duke Ellington (who would later write "Portrait of the Lion") and most younger New York-based pianists of the 1920s and '30s. Although he was a braggart and (with his cigar and trademark derby hat) appeared to be a rough character, Smith was actually more colorful than menacing and a very sophisticated pianist with a light touch. His recordings with his Cubs (starting in 1935) and particularly his 1939 piano solos for Commodore (highlighted by "Echoes of Spring") cemented his place in history. Because he remained very active into the early '70s (writing his memoirs Music on My Mind in 1965), for quite a few decades Willie "the Lion" Smith was considered a living link to the glory days of early jazz. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Memories

1. Dardanella

2. Sweet Sue, Just You

3. Zig Zag

4. Late Hours

5. La Madelon

6. Darktown Strutter's Ball (Take 1)

7. Can You Hear Me

8. Trains And Planes

9. Pretty Baby

10. Carolina Shout

11. Conversation On Park Avenue

12. Portrait Of The Duke

13. Charleston

14. I'm Gonna Ride The Rest Of The Way

15. Here Comes The Band

16. Ain't Misbehavin'

17. Relaxin'

18. Contrary Motion

19. 12th Street Rag

20. Get Together Blues

21. Cuttin' Out

22. Darktown Strutter's Ball Take 2

23. Nagasaki

24. Echoes Of Spring

25. Stormy Weather

x

Track List: The Legend Of Willie The Lion Smith

1. Ain't Misbehavin

2. Tea For Two

3. Maple Leaf Rag

4. Darktown Strutters' Ball

5. Saint Louis Blues

6. Charleston

7. Echo Of Spring

8. Ballin' The Jack

9. Rock And Roll And Weep

10. S-H-I-N-E

x

Track List: Muskrat Ramble

1. Woodland Fantasy

2. Let's Mop It

3. Muskrat Ramble

4. Bugle Call Rag

5. How Could You Put Me Down

6. Echoes of Spring

7. Here Comes the Band

8. Relaxing

9. Contrary Motion

10. Zig-Zag

11. 12th Street Rag

12. Late Hours

13. Portrait of the Duke

14. Dardanella

15. La Madelon

16. Cuttin' Out

17. Charleston

18. Carolina Shout

19. I'm Gonna Ride the Rest of the Way

20. Darktown Strutter's Ball

21. Ain't Misbehavin'

22. Stormy Weather

23. Get Together Blues

24. Nagasaki

x

Track List: Morning Air

1. Morning Air

2. Echoes Of Spring

3. Concentrating

4. Fading Star

5. Passionette

6. Rippling Waters

7. Sneakaway

8. Finger Buster

9. What Is There To Say

10. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

11. The Boy In The Boat

12. Tea For Two

13. I'll Follow You

14. Stormy Weather

15. Three Keyboards

16. The Lion And The Lamb

x

Track List: The Very Best Of

1. Summertime

2. I'm All Out Of Breath

3. Achin' Hearted Blues

4. Music On My Mind

5. Shine

6. In A Minor Groove

7. Swing, Brother, Swing

8. More Than That

9. H&M Blues

10. Get Acquainted With Yourself

11. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

12. Sparklets

13. Am I Blue?

14. All Out Of Breath

15. Louisiana

16. There's Gonna Be The Devil To Pay

17. The Old Stamping Ground

18. Tango La Caprice

19. The Swampland (Is Calling Me)

20. Relaxin'

21. Darktown Strutters Ball

22. Morning Air (1938)

23. Breeze (Blow My Baby Back To Me)

24. Honeymoonin' On A Dime

25. Harlem Joys

26. Some Of These Days

27. Rippling Water

28. Honeysuckle Rose

29. Blues, Why Don't You Leave Me Alone?

30. Echoes Of Spring

31. Sharps And Flat

32. Ain't She Sweet?

33. Polonaise

34. Concentratin'

35. I'll Follow You

x

Track List: Memorial

1. Darktown Strutter's Ball [Take 1]

2. Darktown Strutter's Ball [Take 2]

3. Ain't Misbehavin'

4. Stormy Weather

5. Get Together Blues

6. Nagasaki

7. Can You Hear Me

8. Trains And Planes

9. Conversation On Park Avenue

10. Pretty Baby

11. Sweet Sue

x

Track List: Portrait Of The Duke

1. Portrait Of The Duke

2. Late Hours

3. Darktown Strutter's Ball (Part 1)

4. Relaxin' (1949)

5. Stormy Weather

6. Contray Motions

7. Nagasaki

8. La Madelon (New York, 1949)

9. Trains And Planes

10. Get Together Blues

11. 12th Street Rag

12. Ain't Misbehavin'

13. Zig Zag

14. Darktown Strutter's Ball (Part 2)

Comments

Report as inappropriate
I knew the Lion when he played at the Central Plaza in new York in the 50s and 60s. He was great fun appeared there with the likes of Kid Ory Charlie Shavers ,Tony Parente ,Panama Francis
The other band was Conrad Janis and his Tailgate 5 .a lot of fun nights with great music
Central plaza was run by Billy Crystals father
Report as inappropriate
frankgpotter
Great jazz,I LOVE it!!!!
Report as inappropriate
wonderful jazz music . thank you
Report as inappropriate
There's a really great NPR Jazz Profiles on this guy. It's just fantastic.
Report as inappropriate
Just wonderful... h o w about linking to bios on the artists for sale at ebay or Amazon? Would be revenue potential for Pandora..

Jim
Boston
Report as inappropriate
always learning.. so much good stuff that is old, but new and exciting.

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