‘Taking A Chance On Love’, by Rita Reys And The Jazz Messengers
The Dutch Rita Reys (1924), since 1960 officially ‘Europe’s First Lady Of Jazz’, has been a professional performer for more than six decades. Even today, this jazz diva still knows how to charm audiences with her famously unique timing, legendary swing and fabulous performance.
As Rita became a big success in the Netherlands in the 40’s and 50’s, America beckoned. Legendary record producer George Avakian (Columbia), who had heard her sing at the ‘Sheherazade Club’ in Amsterdam, invited her to come to the States. She gladly accepted his invitation and went there in 1956. She had the opportunity to record an album in New York with one of the most famous jazz bands of all times: Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, the only time the Jazz Messengers played behind a vocalist. ‘The Cool Voice Of Rita Reys’ features Horace Silver, Hank Mobley and Donald Byrd. Because they had such a ball working with Rita, these famous musicians did a number of shows with her at the renowned Village Vanguard in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Rita Reys - Vocals Hank Mobley - Tenor Saxophone Donald Byrd - Trumpet Horace Silver - Piano Doug Watkins - Bass Art Blakey - Drums
Arthur Tatum Jr. (1909-1956) was born in Toledo, Ohio and despite being blind in one eye and only partially sighted in the other he became arguably the greatest jazz piano player who ever lived. Virtually every jazz pianist active today, whether knowingly or innocently, owes some debt to Tatum who, in the 1930’s, transformed jazz piano’s lexicon for all time. Indeed, major players of other instruments trace their development to having listened to the new concepts Tatum brought to the keyboard.
Critics are almost universal in their praise of Tatum. Many have attempted to describe the Tatum style and sound. For example, Whitney Balliett describes his technique as “prodigious, even virtuosic … an angelic touch: no pianist has got a better sound out of the instrument … gargantuan arpeggios, oompah stride basses…. No matter how fast he played or how intense and complex his harmonic inventions became, his attack kept its commanding clarity.” The elegant pianist Teddy Wilson, who observed: “…Maybe this will explain Art: if you put a piano in a room, just a bare piano. Then you get all the finest jazz pianists in the world and let them play in the presence of Art Tatum. Then let Art play … everyone there will sound like an amateur…”
After regular club dates, Tatum would go to after-hours clubs to hang out with other musicians who would play for each other. Tatum enjoyed listening to other pianists and preferred to play last when several pianists played. He frequently played for hours on end into the dawn, to the detriment of his marriages. Tatum was said to be more spontaneous and creative in those free-form nocturnal sessions than in his scheduled performances. Evidence of this can be found in the set entitled ‘20th Century Piano Genius‘ which consists of 40 tunes recorded at private parties at the home of Hollywood music director Ray Heindorf in 1950 and 1955. According to the review by Marc Greilsamer, “all of the trademark Tatum elements are here: the grand melodic flourishes, the harmonic magic tricks, the flirtations with various tempos and musical styles. But what also emerges is Tatum’s effervescence, his joy, and his humor. He seems to celebrate and mock these timeless melodies all at once…”