COMPACT DISC REVIEW

BY

Jack Rummel

Magic Fingers: A Tribute to Johnny Guarnieri

Jim Turner, piano

Solo Art 172

 

Gliss Me Again / The Turner Shout / Amigo Simpatico / Sandra / The Minute Waltz / Hangover / Dolce Tanina / Magic Fingers Rag / Nothiní / Reminiscences / The Jim Dandy Rag / Peterís Minuet / The Pasadena Shout / Fast and Furious / Uno / Take Me Out to the Ballgame / The Dazzler*.  (*with Ron Hockett, clarinet)

 

     Johnny Guarnieri (1917-1985) was undoubtedly one of the finest pianists of his day.  Not only could he dazzle with his mastery of stride piano, but he was in demand as a sideman for the likes of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and others.  He made numerous recordings from the early 1940s up through the late 1970s, so there have been many opportunities to enjoy his talents.

     Jim Turner is ideally suited to record this tribute to Guarnieri, being a consummate stride pianist himself and a sideman in two of todayís well known jazz bands, but he also met Guarnieri early on who quickly ďadoptedĒ him as a protťgť.  Turner has recorded several of Guarnieriís compositions and was even asked to perform at his memorial services.  On this CD, he has created a program of Guarnieri originals and other pieces associated with him, including some from private sources that were previously unavailable.  The variety is astounding!

     The recording imitates a concert hall setting and listeners will feel that they are well positioned in the audience.  Selections range from the lush ballad Sandra (previously unpublished and unrecorded) to the four-alarm Fast and Furious (which registers 188 on the metronome).  Guarnieriís most commercially successful work, Gliss Me Again, is reprised here, as is his crowd-pleasing stride version of Chopinís Minute Waltz.

     He was also famous for being able to improvise an arrangement of almost any song for left hand alone.  Turner demonstrates this on Guarnieriís Uno, which is done so skillfully that most listeners will assume itís being played with two hands.  The lengthy liner notes by Turner reveal much about the master, including that he once dreamt of being a major league baseball player.  Guarnieriís version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, a nod to the sport he loved, is included in the playlist.

     There is so much to like about this CD, but my one gripe is that there is no demonstration of another great Guarnieri skill, namely his ability to change any well-known standard to 5/4 time.  Thatís a small nit to pick in the face of all the outstanding music that is here.  The respect and devotion that Jim Turner has put into this tribute is obvious and he channels Johnny Guarnieri so effectively that itís hard to tell them apart.  Donít pass this one up!  Highly recommended.

     Available for $15.98 plus shipping from www.jazzology.com.