WILLARD MCDANIEL — '88' A La Carte (review)

WILLARD MCDANIEL — '88' A La Carte album cover Album · 1958 · Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
js
Willard McDaniel was mostly known as a blues and RnB sideman who played boogie-woogie piano and worked with guys like Roy Milton, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, T Bone Walker and BB King. A highly accomplished pianist, McDaniel was also known to play stride in the style of Fats Waller. Later in his career you might find McDaniel playing background music in lounges and supper clubs around the Los Angelas area, and that is the style of McDaniel’s that you will find on “88 a la Carte”. No doubt McDaniel is a formidable pianist, but this is music meant to soothe and relax, as well as appeal to those who prefer pop to heavy jazz. McDaniel is backed by an un-credited stand up bassist and trap player, but they keep it cool and in the background, this is definitely Willard’s show.

The tunes on here favor well known jazz standards, as well as a few popular tunes of the day and a couple surprises, including “Sugar Blues’, a cut that allows McDaniel to show a little personality. The playing on here is highly skilled with an influence from the ultra-cool lounge stylist George Shearing, as well as some gimmicky crowd pleasing effects along the lines of Roger Williams, Floyd Cramer and Bent Fabric. The quality of the song interpretations vary from the very cheezy “You Always Hurt the One You Love”, to an up-tempo “I’ll Remember April”, that almost sounds like real jazz. “Along the Navaho Trail” also allows Willard to play in his more familiar blues style.

“88” was put out on the ultra budget Crown label, but the recording is fairly good for a label with such a bad reputation. This isn’t great jazz, but it wasn’t meant to be, this is what used to play in hotel lobbies and high end restaurants before the advent of customized muzak stations and personal internet radio. If you have any interest in this rapidly disappearing bit of lounge culture, “88 a la Carte” is a great example of a style that was once very prevalent. You can still find this LP on the internet, in thrift stores or anywhere else the flotsam and jetsam of the LP world goes to make its last stand.
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