On September 23, 1907, 109 years to the day before this posting, the boogie woogie piano great Albert Ammons was born.
Ammons was born in Chicago to piano playing parents, who passed on the art to him at a young age. He developed his barrelhouse style with his close friend Meade “Lux” Lewis, taking notes from Hersal Thomas and Jimmy Yancey. In the 1920s, both he and Lewis were working as taxicab drivers, and began playing together as a duo. Ammons started a band in 1935, and recorded for Decca with his Rhythm Kings in 1936. On December 23, 1938, Ammons appeared in John Hammond’s concert, From Spirituals to Swing at Carnegie Hall, celebrating the history of jazz from spirituals to swing. The event featured Count Basie’s orchestra with Hot Lips Page and Jimmy Rushing, the Golden Gate Quartet, bluesmen Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Terry, and fellow boogie woogie pianists Pete Johnson, and Meade “Lux” Lewis, to name a few. The concert created a surge in the popularity of boogie woogie, with Ammons at the forefront, and he worked quite extensively throughout the following decade, culminating with his performance at Harry S. Truman’s inauguration in 1949. After a period of illness, Ammons died on December 2, 1949.
Blue Note 2 was recorded on January 6, 1939 in New York by Albert Ammons. It was Blue Note’s second release, from the new record label’s first recording session, held in a rented studio.
Ammons recorded his famous “Boogie Woogie Stomp” previously in 1936 for Decca with his Rhythm Kings, but that version, in my opinion, lacked the same kind of driving energy that characterizes this solo recording. A truncated version of the piece (which Ammons recorded for the Solo-Art label) was used in Norman McLaren’s 1940 animation Boogie Doodle.
On the other side, Ammons improvises “Boogie Woogie Blues”, demonstrating his formidable ability as a pianist.