Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A headstone for James P. Johnson

Duke Ellington on pianist and composer James P. Johnson (1894–1955):

James, for me, was more than the beginning. He went right on up to the top. . . .

James he was to his friends — just James, not Jimmy, nor James P. There never was another.

Music Is My Mistress (New York: Doubleday, 1973), 94–95.
The James P. Johnson Foundation is raising funds to buy a headstone for Johnson’s unmarked Queens grave. Twelve pianists just performed in Manhattan for the cause.

Here, from the YouTube vaults, are two James P. Johnson performances: a 1921 QRS piano roll of his “Carolina Shout” and a 1944 Blue Note recording of “After You’ve Gone” (Turner Layton–Henry Creamer) by James P. Johnson’s Blue Note Jazzmen: Sidney DeParis (trumpet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Ben Webster (tenor saxophone), Johnson (piano), Jimmy Shirley (guitar), John Simmons (bass), Sidney Catlett (drums). I first heard this “After You’ve Gone” as a reel-to-reel transfer, twenty-five or more years ago, at Bill Youngren’s house, with the volume turned to eleven. It was, and is, glorious.

[Personnel listing via the Blue Note Records Discography: 1939–1944.]

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