When it comes to performing music from the 1920s and ’30s, there are several viable approaches. Some musicians closely copy the arrangements and sometimes the solos of the original recordings. Others take aspects of the earlier renditions while they modernize the music overall. This fairly recent recording by pianist Ethan Leinwand takes a third approach, reviving the older tunes while being creative within the classic style.
Ethan Leinwand performs music that makes the distinction between early jazz, boogie-woogie, and blues seem artificial. A self-described barrelhouse blues pianist based in St. Louis, his playing can easily pass for a 1930s Chicago musician recording for the Bluebird label. He has named such pianists as Little Brother Montgomery, Black Bob, Jimmy Yancey, Peetie Wheatstraw, Albert Ammons, and Carl Sonny Leyland as among his influences and he has blended them altogether to achieve his own individual voice.
On The Low-Down Piano, a set of 16 often-rollicking piano solos, Leinwand plays pieces by such notables as Montgomery, Yancey, Henry Brown, Robert Shaw, Romeo Nelson, Jabo Williams, and Montana Taylor. On “Cuttin’(and Pastin’) The Boogie,” he combines numbers by Albert Ammons and Cripple Clarence Lofton while “Cripple Cow Cow Blues” is a combination of Lofton and Cow Cow Davenport.
Throughout the set, Ethan Leinwand plays with plenty of spirit while displaying versatility, technique, and a real feeling for the vintage music. The results are quite fun.
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St. Louis has had a uniquely bluesy and sassy revival jazz scene for going on 70 years. I’m happy to say the younger generation, led