The First Day

Albert Ammons and Meade "Lux" Lewis

album cover

Talk About an Auspicious Start

John Hammond's Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall in December 1938 (see p. 811) did more than expose groundbreaking jazz and blues musicians to New York audiences for the first time: It created demand for their services among record labels. Producer Alfred Lion was so wowed by the boogiewoogie pianists Meade "Lux" Lewis (1905–1964) and Albert Ammons (1907–1949) that he set up a label of his own to record them. Just two weeks later, the intrepid Lion captured eight tunes by Lewis (including a five-part original suite called "The Blues"), nine by Ammons, and two jovial, fast-moving duets. In a single day. The results became the very first recordings pressed by the Blue Note label.

They're also some of the least ostentatious piano-boogie recordings of all time. The feeling throughout is loose and relaxed, as both pianists are inclined to paw through ambling themes rather than do the high-octane show-off thing. Lewis is the nuts-and-bolts guy; his pieces move at an easygoing clip, and drift out of tempo every once in a while. Ammons is the barn burner: His "Boogie Woogie Stomp" swings with a giddy ferociousness, like he's dancing with the piano. His aptly titled "Bass Goin' Crazy" is a series of scale-like runs with a serious wow factor.

Lots of boogie had that impact. What sets Ammons and Lewis apart is their shared insistence that there's more going on than just dazzling look-how-fast-the-left-hand-moves demonstrations. The First Day has the expected bells and whistles—the wildcatting lines, irreverent shout choruses, and slipping and sliding mayhem that spans the length of the keyboard. But it's also got some blues reflection in it, and moments of poignancy that are precious now, considering how showbiz-sensational boogie-woogie soon became.

Genre: Jazz
Released: 1939, Blue Note
Key Tracks: "Bass Goin' Crazy," "The Blues (Pts. 1–5)," "Boogie Woogie Stomp," "Nagasaki" (duet)
Catalog Choice: Ammons: Eight to the Bar. Lewis: The Blues Piano Artistry of Meade "Lux" Lewis
Next Stop: Pete Johnson: King of Boogie
After That: Willie "The Lion" Smith: Relaxin' After Hours
Book Page: 20

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Comments:

#1 from James, Dover - 07/04/2010 10:40

I’ve enjoyed Albert Ammons since early ages and this album is fantastic. By virtue of the fact, I used any opportunity to listen to their melodies back in the 80s, since the internet was not that popular. I am quite happy, that today I can purchase these albums online without problems. I have also downloaded some of the biographical videos about Albert Ammons and his family from this file search engine http://rapidok.com

Kindest regards and thank you for the post.

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