Monday, April 17, 2017

Mike Longo - "Only Time Will Tell"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Mike Longo didn't get much sleep as a teenager in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He spent most nights listening to disc jockey Leonce Picot's jazz program, which broadcast from midnight to 6am on radio station WFTL. One night Longo heard Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie for the first time. It was an epiphany.

"I wanted to wake up my parents and tell 'em," he recalls. "It changed my whole life around."

Little more than a dozen years later, in 1966, Gillespie himself hired Longo as his pianist and appointed him the group's musical director the following year. Their association lasted 26 years.

Longo, who was born in Cincinnati on March 19, 1939, has featured songs written by Gillespie on his own recordings over the years. Only Time Will Tell, his 26th album since 1962, … The new trio disc, his 20th album for the CAP (Consolidated Artists Productions) label, includes two Gillespie compositions. The up-tempo "Wheatleigh Hall" was first recorded by the trumpeter in 1957 on an album with Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt. The gently swinging "Just a Thought," written by Gillespie in the '60s as a piano feature, had never been previously recorded. "My first night on the band, he put that chart up in front of me and I had to sight-read it," Longo remembers. "I played it well. Dizzy said, 'Hell, yes!'

"The next night I fell on my butt as a player. The first night I was inspired so much just playing with him, but the next night I said, 'Oh, damn. You gotta come up with this level every night?' He said, 'What the hell you think I'm paying you for?' I had this reality shock of ‘'Oh my God! I've got a lot of work to do.' The rest of my life up to this point has been working on achieving and maintaining that level.

"Nobody really knows about the tune 'Just a Thought.' I had been carrying it around in my head all these years. After Dizzy passed, I wrote a lead sheet and sent it over to Lorraine [Gillespie's widow]. I told her to send it in and get a copyright."

Longo is joined on Only Time Will Tell by bassist Paul West and drummer Lewis Nash. West had done two stints with Gillespie—in the '50s with the trumpeter's big band and again in the '60s with the quintet that included Longo. Nash had worked with Gillespie on several occasions in subsequent years.”

Our thanks to Terri Hinte for sending along the above biographical information on pianist Mike Longo and the following media release for Only Time Will Tell [CA} 1054] which was issued on March 31, 2017.

Mike’s approach to piano trio Jazz is heavily influenced by his background as a composer-arranger for his own big band. He applies the same structured themes to his trio work so that everything comes from something: there are introductions, interludes and intervals; piano features, bass features and drum features; up tempo, medium swing and ballad song selections - a full array and panoply of arranger’s conceptions which constantly alter the music and keep it interesting.

His choice of tunes also helps provide the listener with a wide variety of melodies. These include Jazz Standards such Monk’s Nutty and Brilliant Corners and Oscar Pettiford’s Bohemia After Dark, Memories of You, Exactly Like You and Ruby from the Great American Songbook and four originals by Mike including the title tune.

And then there is the unsurpassed musicianship of Mike, Paul West and Lewis Nash; all three extremely accomplished on their instruments but experienced and unselfish enough to listen to one another and make exciting and stimulating music together.

Here are some excerpts from Terri Hinte’s press release.

MARCH 31, 2017

“Connoisseurs of jazz piano trios will welcome the release, on March 31, of Only Time Will Tell, the new trio recording by piano master Mike Longo with Paul West on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. The disc is Longo's 20th for the CAP (Consolidated Artists Productions) label, and his 26th since debuting as a leader in 1962.

Included on the CD are two compositions by Dizzy Gillespie, with whom Longo worked as pianist and musical director for 26 years, until Gillespie's death in 1993. The up-tempo "Wheatleigh Hall" was first recorded by the trumpeter in 1957 on an album with Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt. The gently swinging "Just a Thought," written by Gillespie in the '60s as a piano feature, had never been previously recorded.

Longo's trio-mates had their own associations with Gillespie. West had done two stints with the trumpeter—in the '50s with Dizzy's big band and again in the '60s with the quintet that included Longo. Nash had worked with Gillespie on several occasions in subsequent years.

Longo, West, and Nash play two Thelonious Monk tunes—"Nutty" and "Brilliant Corners"—on Only Time Will Tell and also offer their takes on Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark"; "Exactly Like You," delivered at an ultra-slow tempo; and Eubie Blake's "Memories of You," which closes the album. Among the Longo originals are the bossa nova-propelled "Stepping Up"; "Conflict of Interest," first recorded for a 1994 quintet album dedicated to Gillespie; and the gently waltzing title track, inspired by a documentary about Lyndon Johnson. "I started feeling sorry for him and went to the piano and wrote it," says Longo. "The point of the title is that after the passage of time, things may appear different than when you originally perceived them."

The son of a band-leading bassist father and a church organist mother, Michael Longo Jr. was inspired as a child by boogie-woogie pianists Sugar Chile Robinson in his native Cincinnati, and Jack Fina later in Fort Lauderdale, where the Longos had moved when he was in the third grade. While in Florida, Longo was later inspired by jazz piano master Oscar Peterson, with whom he would eventually spend six months studying privately.

After earning a bachelor's degree in classical piano at Western Kentucky University, in 1959, Longo spent two years touring with the Salt City Six, the Dixieland group, and was hired at the Metropole Cafe in New York as one of the club's house pianists. In his two shifts a day, he backed Coleman Hawkins, Gene Krupa, and Henry "Red" Allen, among many others.

Gillespie, who first heard the young pianist at the Metropole, hired him in 1966. Longo went on to make nine albums with the trumpet legend, beginning with Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac in 1967, and has also recorded with Astrud Gilberto, Lee Konitz, Buddy Rich, and Moody, to name just a few. He cut the first album under his own name, A Jazz Portrait of Funny Girl, in 1962; his last 20 have appeared on Consolidated Artists Productions (CAP), a musicians' cooperative label managed by Longo and his wife. He also has enjoyed a successful second career as an educator and creator of instructional books and videos.

Since January 6, 2004, the anniversary of his friend Dizzy Gillespie's death, Longo has presented concerts every Tuesday evening in the Gillespie Auditorium of the New York City Baha'i Center. Longo will appear there 4/25 with his 17-piece New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble featuring Ira Hawkins. He'll be performing at Mezzrow 5/25 with Paul West.”

Media Contact:
Terri Hinte

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