Pete Johnson – Radio Broadcasts, Film Soundtracks, Alternate Takes 1939 – c. 1947
Pete Johnson – Boogie-woogie piano
Includes performances by:
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra
Big Joe Turner
Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra
Extensive, 22 page illustrated booklet notes by Axel Zwingenberger.
Pete Johnson began his musical career in 1922 as a drummer in Kansas City, Missouri. From 1926 to 1938 he worked as a pianist, often accompanying singer Joe Turner. In 1938 he and Turner appeared in the Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall. This concert started a boogie-woogie craze, and Turner and two other performers at the concert, Meade “Lux” Lewis and Albert Ammons, worked together afterwards at Café Society for a long time; they also toured and recorded together. In 1950 he moved to Buffalo, New York but, despite problems with his health, continued to tour and record, notably with Jimmy Rushing, Turner, and Jazz at the Philharmonic. He died on March 23rd, 1967.
Pete Johnson is often labelled as the foremost exponent of “Kansas City boogie-woogie style”. This is in contrast to his colleagues of the Boogie Woogie Trio, Albert Simmons and Meade Lux Lewis from Chicago, whose main influences were Jimmy Yancey, Pinetop Smith, Hersal Thomas, Clarence Lofton and Jimmy Blythe.
Meade “Lux” Lewis played a harmonic and rhythmic system all of his own, where as Albert Ammons relied heavily on his powerful touch and swing-to-perfection which enabled him to emulate a Fats Waller like rhythmic tension.
This compilation, gives the overall impression of a player who had good knowledge of harmonic structures, great command of rhythm and plenty of experience of swinging along with high calibre Jazz musicians. Pete Johnson’s influences included Charles “Smash” Johnson, then Louis “Bootie” Johnson, who made Pete change from drumming to playing piano in 1926. Other main inspirations came from Fats Waller and for boogie-woogie, Pinetop Smith’s recordings and Jelly Roll Morton. Tracks on the CD include the big band “Roll ‘Em” by Benny Goodman’s Orchestra, “Buss Robinson Blues” was a favourite of Pete’s being a tribute to a friend and fellow pianist. “Goin’ Away Blues” was a number from Pete’s first commercial recording session, accompanied by the singer Joe Turner, “Boogie Woogie Prayer” is a piano duet with Albert Ammons. Other highlights are several songs featuring the singer Lena Horne, these are “My New Gown” and the excellent “Unlucky Dream”.