Born: January 24, 1924 | Died: 1988 Primary Instrument: Piano
Joe Albany was considered something of a legend in modern jazz and one of the first important bebop pianists. As with many others, critics never acknowledged his talents in the beginning of his career. Rumored to have been Charlie Parker's favorite pianist, Joe Albany was renowned in his time. After a lengthy seclusion from the scene, he resurfaced in the 70s just in time to leave some lasting recordings.
Albany worked in the '40s with Benny Carter, and Stan Getz. His first recording session was with Georgie Auld's big band in '45 on the sessions for “Honey,” and “Stompin' At The Savoy.” His records with Lester Young in '46 in Los Angeles revealed both in comping and solos that he was well ahead of the field.
In a rare live broadcast from the Finale Club in 1946, Albany is an aggressive participant, his choruses fully a match for Charlie Parker's, raising memories of the creative dueling of Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. This period established his reputation, but Albany was potentially a giant who got lost, perhaps because of drugs; in the late '40s.
There is not much information on him until his first recording as a co-leader doing a quartet set “The Right Combination,” recorded in 1957 with Warne Marsh; this is his most popular release. He wrote songs recorded by Anita O'Day, and worked with Charles Mingus in New York in '63.
Albany again slipped into a period of seclusion, not heard from until 1971when he did “Joe Albany At Home,” followed by “Proto-Bopper” in ’72. He led a trio set in 1973’s “Birdtown Birds,” and Birdtown Blues,” following with “Two's Company,” with bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson, for Steeplechase, in Copenhagen '74.
Albany’s solo sets included a date from Milan, Italy; “This Is For My Friends,” (’74) “Plays George Gershwin” and “Bruce Lane,” made in Paris.(’76) “The Albany Touch,” ('77) on Seabreeze, was recorded in California. There was a duo “Joe + Joe,” ('74) done in Rome with Joe Venuti.
He went back to leading a trio that also included bassist Art Davis and drummer Roy Haynes, on “Bird Lives!” from a New York date in '79. “Portrait Of An Artist,” from '81 on Elektra finds Joe teamed with George Duvivier, Charlie Persip, and Al Gofa on guitar. This would be his last recording.
Joe Albany led a shadowy existence in the annals of jazz piano, and to this day seems to be largely forgotten, if acknowledged at all. His lifelong battles with personal demons and decades of struggle were described in the excellent 1980 documentary ‘Joe Albany...a Jazz Life,’ and his daughter Amy wrote a revealing autobiography in which she describes her fathers downward spirals and tribulations. But in the context of his contribution to jazz music Joe Albany was around during the formative days of bebop and left us a recorded legacy, maybe scattered, yet relevant to the man as a whole
Source: James Nadal