"Jay McShann Live in Tokyo 1990" - Album Review

Jay McShann Live in Tokyo 1990, a widely unheard album was recorded live during an April 9th, 1990 show at Indigo Blues, The ACT, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Artist: Jay McShann

Album Title: Jay McShann Live in Tokyo 1990

T2 Audio

Personnel: Jay McShann, piano and vocals; Lynn Seaton, bass and vocals; Chuck Riggs, drums

Tracks: But Not for Me, In a Sentimental Mood, Kansas City, Moten Swing, On a Clear Day, Jumpin’ the Blues, Georgia On My Mind, All of Me, Cute

 Recorded April 9, 1990 at Indigo Blues at the ACT, Tokyo, Japan

Jay McShann in Tokyo.jpg

 My goodness, how we miss Jay McShann.

 When folks try to explain what Kansas City jazz is all about, what makes it unique, more often than not the explanation will include Jay McShann. His music had that strong sense of swing. His style incorporated boogie-woogie and stride along with his fabulous straight-ahead jazz piano technique, and his blues and voice were always inventive and distinctive. Above all, he was fun to listen to. You were bound to leave one of his performances happier than when you arrived.

 McShann was 76 years old and three decades into the renewed interest in his music when this set was recorded. He was a hit in Canada, Europe and Japan, and this resulted in many recordings during these years, many on the Canadian label Sackville. This newly released record comes right at the end of the Sackville period.

 From the first few bars on “But Not for Me” one can hear how fabulous a player Jay was. After a short intro he tears into the tune Garner-like, with that strong left hand comping. Lynn Seaton and Chuck Riggs swing right along with him. Jay’s solo is full of surprise, he has such a strong melodic sense. I love Seaton’s well-structured bass solo, which includes his strong strumming skills.

 “In a Sentimental Mood” is masterful. Listen to how Jay moves between his lines, his time, and these great chords (his harmonic skills were exemplary). At times during his solo, his left hand is so strong that you might struggle to hear Seaton. Seaton, long a versatile first-call bassist, has his own great solo.

 Jay loves “Kansas City”. I never tire of him playing and singing this blues, especially with a great swinging Seaton solo that reminds me of Percy Heath doing “The Watergate Blues.” But Jay was not done yet and comes back for another rocking solo with that killer left hand. “Moten Swing” is more Kansas City history, one of those songs that may never go away (I just heard some young musicians in Barcelona tear it up). Jay is again inventive and lightly swinging. Seaton uses his bow and adds his vocals a la Major Holley.

 There is more KC blues here, too, the old McShann favorite “Jumpin’ the Blues.” I love Jay's opening here, taking it slow, then picking up the pace as Seaton and Riggs join him. Then it is just Jay and his endless file drawer of blues lines. Now this is Kansas City jazz!

 The remaining tracks are standards, the most current being “On a Clear Day” which was twenty-five years old at the time. Jay sounds great on his vocal, and it is fun to hear him humming along with his piano solo. “Georgia On My Mind” is a great ballad, and Jay is again warm in his readings on piano and vocals. “All of Me” is another swinger featuring another fine Seaton solo. “Cute” is a well-deserved feature for Chuck Riggs, whose drums add much to the set.

 This is a fabulous and unexpected gift from Japan to the many music fans who enjoy Jay McShann. The set sounds alive, very well-recorded, like having a perfect front row seat.  This is a welcome addition to my collection and to the McShann discography.

–        Roger Atkinson