Movin’ & Groovin’: Horace Parlan

To date, I haven’t taken a look at any piano trios, so putting that right is overdue. Horace Parlan’s debut as a leader, Movin’ & Groovin’ from 1960 is a particular favourite that I have been enjoying since 2010 when visit to Tokyo gave me the opportunity to purchase some Blue Note titles that were then a bit harder to find in the UK.

Horace Parlan was born in Pittsburgh in 1931. Childhood polio led to lifelong partial paralysis of his right hand and I understand that a young Horace took up piano, partly as a form of therapy. Needs must, and his physical challenge was answered by greater use being made of his left hand, which set him apart from other players. In 1957 he moved to New York City and the Movin’ & Groovin‘ session was recorded for Blue Note three years later.

Movin & Groovin Cover

The album is largely made up of Parlan’s interpretations of other people’s tunes, and Duke Ellington’s C Jam Blues provides the starting point. There’s just the right degree of what I, as a non-piano playing listener, perceive as building tension in his playing.

Next up is On Green Dolphin Street. Prior to hearing this LP I was most familiar with a version recorded by Miles Davis. The light and joyful optimism Of Horace Parlan’s treatment makes it a track I listen to often. It was a title tune of a film that broke UK box office records in 1947. It starred Lana Turner in what sounds like something of a rom com where a man gets drunk and writes a letter proposing marriage to one of two sisters who both love him. The wrong sister opens the letter! Oh well, there have probably been flimsier plots and it’s lasting legacy was a fine tune, which you can listen to on YouTube- clip courtesy of 1Blue1

To listen, touch or click on the arrow.

Up in Cynthia’s Room is the sole self-composed tune on this set. It has a fine strolling bass line and is strong without being too demanding to listen to. Lazy Bird is the Tad Dameron standard. It offers a chance for Al Harewood to show that he knows the way around the full range of his kit.

Bag’s Groove is a bustling tune that made me think about Hollywood and dancing as I listened. There probably isn’t such a thing as a foxtrot hustle, but if there was this would be what it could be performed to.

Stella by Starlight offers Parlan another chance to deliver a jazz standard, as does There is No Greater Love, while the set closes with It Could Happen to You. My 92 year old aunt was bouncing along to this one and smiling as it played- so thanks for that Mr Parlan.

Horace Parlan is one of the survivors. In 1971 he decided to move to Europe after being robbed and witnessing other street violence in New York City stating that: “You cannot create good music in an atmosphere full of tension with drugs and crime on the streets.” On the following YouTube clip from a documentary filmed in 2000 (courtesy of DonMcGlynnFilms) he plays a tune entitled Love and Peace and explains how essential these things are to all of us.

To listen, touch or click on the arrow.

Recent posts on London Jazz Collector’s site have looked at two recordings from 1977 and 1980 that Archie Shepp made with him, in which they revisit blues and gospel standards (you can read about them here and here). They remain a treat that I have yet to fully experience, but I can wholeheartedly recommend Movin’ and Groovin‘ as a great starting point for any exploration of Horace Parlan’s piano style.

The band etc: Horace Parlan (piano); Al Harewood (drums); George Tucker (bass). Recorded: 29 February 1960. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey. Produced: Al Lion; Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4028.