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Don Shirley - Improvisations
Cadence CLP1015 [1956]
1. Sometimes I'm Happy - Don Shirley, Youmans, Vincent 
2. But Not for Me - Don Shirley, Gershwin, Ira 
3. Tenderly - Don Shirley, Gross, Walter 
4. What Is There to Say? - Don Shirley, Harburg, E.Y. 
5. Autumn Leaves - Don Shirley, Kosma, Joseph
6. Atonal Ostinato Blues in B 
7. When I Fall in Love - Don Shirley, Young, Victor 
8. Over the Rainbow - Don Shirley, Arlen, Harold 
9. Let's Fall in Love - Don Shirley, Arlen, Harold 
10. Walkin' by the River - Don Shirley, Carlisle, Una Mae

Reissued on
Collectable Jazz Classics

Photo by Bob Kornheiser

This recording was made by use of the famous Austrian "A.K.G." Microphone.  Frequency Response -- Flat from 30-20,000 cycles Playback--RIAA Curve

Of all the art forms, its is doubtful that any has had a comparable evolution to jazz. In painting, the formal and formalized great maters came first and the emotionalists and realists later. In classical music, the early giants wrote with what amounted to mathematical science and not until later did "longhair" music go experimental and whacky. Jazz started the other way--a bunch of guys blowing the best they could. Instead of getting wilder and more uninhibited, jazz is steadily getting more thoughtful and mental. Of all the newer jazz stars, none is a better example of this than Don Shirley on this new album.
The writer knows little about Shirley's background indeed, his recorded background seems to conflict with itself-but he is obviously an educated musician who could be at home in the classics just as easily. Indeed, were it not for his inventiveness and, at times, his purely tricky imagination, much of his work might be considered modern classical as well as modern jazz. But he remains in the jazz fold because, under all, he is a truly original talent finely disciplined.

None of the "wild" jazzmen will take more chances with a song. Listen, on this record, to his opening for the familiar and, often in the hands of others, the banal "Sometimes I'm happy." It's a while before you know what he's doing or even what he's sashaying up to. But then, with confidence and taste, he begins to sort of shove the solid melody in under the lace of his improvisations.

His refusal to use more than a bass viol for rhythm has been debated by experts but for Shirley's piano work he is probably correct. The bass player, Richard Davis, gets highly amusing sometimes with a sort of modified Slam Stewart trick. When he needs full tones or even firm ones, Shirley knows it instinctively and he can bear down promptly and hard with both hands.

Personally, I thought that on this record Shirley for the first time shows a little Erroll Garner influence. This, be it hastily added, is not meant as criticism. There is scarcely a pianist today who couldn't adopt something of Garner's unique tones and changes. All music is always based on some other music of somebody's.

Only once on this record did Shirley disappoint me. To my ear, his "Autumn Leaves" is done in too slow a tempo with too much attention on style and not enough on melody. But this miss, if it is one, is more than outbalanced by Shirley's sensitive interpretation of "What is There to Say" in which, he almost seems to "pull the lyric" out of the song and make it a part of his piano. Also, he is to be congratulated for proving that somebody can come along and play "Over the Rainbow' differently than it's been drummed into our ears for years.

Of the newer jazz musicians who think, read and count while still hanging onto the old feel of jazz, Don Shirley is way up there in the top register.

Bob Sylvester

N. Y. Daily News