Pete Recommends…Tommy Flanagan – Montreux ’77

About five years ago some lucky purchases led me to spend more time listening to Tommy Flanagan. I had always admired his work as an accompanist. Now I began to see him as a solo artist. I went back to this trio recording which was part of my vinyl collection. Wow! How had I missed this? It is a stunning performance by all three musicians.

I have now revised my opinion about the major jazz pianists of the last 50 years. I will not go through the list, you will be familiar with them. Among those who are not eccentrics or innovators but simply offer a basic jazz piano style, I would argue that Tommy is the best.

This concert performance is fundamental to my argument. You will not find a more powerful performance by Tommy. He opens the set with Barbados, a Charlie Parker blues, carried along superbly by his rhythm partners, his ideas flow for chorus after chorus. Then there are two medleys (the order on the disc may not follow the performance order). The first offers outstanding readings of two Billie Holiday classics, Some Other Spring and Easy Living. The second explores two less familiar Duke Ellington compositions, Dancers in Love and Jump for Joy, ending with an infectious swing. The final two selections compete with each other for power and quality, but the exceptional flow of ideas on Blue Bossa is an example of this type of mainstream jazz performance at its very best.

Keeter Betts and Bobby Durham were touring with Tommy Flanagan as Ella Fitzgerald’s support at this time. Their work here is outstanding.

[The vinyl issue was on Pablo Live De Luxe 2308 202]

Peter Batten

Tommy Flanagan, piano; Keeter Betts, bass; Bobby Durham, drums.