Kirk Lightsey, Live at Smalls Jazz Club, Cellar Live ****

In the 1960s pianist Kirk Lightsey was with Chet Baker and Sonny Stitt. In the 70s he was with Kenny Burrell on Sky Street - and you can't but help think of Burrell listening to Mark Whitfield here who dominates this new quartet album as lead voice …

Published: 8 Nov 2022. Updated: 24 days.

In the 1960s pianist Kirk Lightsey was with Chet Baker and Sonny Stitt. In the 70s he was with Kenny Burrell on Sky Street - and you can't but help think of Burrell listening to Mark Whitfield here who dominates this new quartet album as lead voice on several tracks.

In the 80s the Detroiter was with Dexter Gordon, The Leaders, Ricky Ford and Woody Shaw. And the 90s saw sessions with Louis Hayes and the continuation of the discipline of making his own records adding to a lengthening discography of his own begun in 1974.

You get an idea of the longevity of Lightsey's career sensing all the above. In the last 15 years Lightsey has made records under his own name for the Itinera, 33, Criss Cross, Unit, Losen, Steeplechase and now the Canadian label Cellar Live labels.

Recorded very satisfyingly at Smalls in New York in September last year - Lightsey was 84 at the time - the standards strewn selection begins with Dave Brubeck's 'In Your Own Sweet Way' and includes Eddie Harris, Tony Williams, J. J. Johnson and McCoy Tyner material.

Lightsey's much recorded 'Heaven Dance' is also here, a throbbing left hand riff pushes the quartet on to the sound of pleased laughter off. The piece was on Lightsey's 1980s largely solo album Lightsey 2 among other work. And the inclusion of Tony Williams' 'Pee Wee' is another link to Lightsey 2. With Lightsey and Whitfield are the great Victor Lewis on drums with the bass chair held elegantly as ever by Santi DeBriano. Lightsey comps very immaculately throughout. For subtlety and consummate, classic, mainstream, touch you will be hard pushed to find anything close in terms of live piano recordings this year. Concentrate especially on the winning treatment of J. J. Johnson's 'Lament.'

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The Headhunters, Speakers in the House, Ropeadope ***1/2

Speakers in the House throws up memories of hearing The Headhunters in 2014 at Ronnie Scott's. What I recall most from that night is that the Summers-Clark percussion mainly congas and drums super-combination tag team of a sound was topped by …

Published: 7 Nov 2022. Updated: 25 days.

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Speakers in the House throws up memories of hearing The Headhunters in 2014 at Ronnie Scott's. What I recall most from that night is that the Summers-Clark percussion mainly congas and drums super-combination tag team of a sound was topped by UK-based tenor and soprano saxophonist Patrick Clahar - bass guitar/double bassist Reggie Washington was on board and the whole thing bubbled along neatly to the touch of New Orleans keyboardist/pianist Stephen Gordon. UK based Clahar drafted in that night isn't on this record but Stephen Gordon, Washington and Donald Harrison join Summers and Clark on the rumbustious recording, this return to the fray laid down in New Orleans. Back at Ronnie's Gordon was a revelation on keys evoking the clavinet and ARP from the Herbie heyday in the 1970s and knits in well here. Like that night at Ronnie's 'Actual Proof' with Clark’s beat so unique people take out patents for less is a highlight on this new Ropeadope release with Gordon a little more sedate on the track on piano. Begun with a kora flavour which works - the New Orleans flavour in the tumbling momentum cooked up on 'Rocking at the Mole House' rumbles enjoyably. Play I spy with Headhunters here all over again - the formula is hard to beat. SG

Mike Clark, top left Bill Summers, Donald Harrison. Photo: Bandcamp