Harry Turner's Episodes of Personal History
Romiley Jazz Archive #2    | HISTORY Page | Obituary Page |

Lisa (Conesa) can be a very sceptical person.

I say that because a scribbled note lurking in the ZIMRI file brings back memories of an outing some few years ago. The legendary jazz pianist Joe Albany had just decided to settle down in Europe and one of his first sessions over here was organised in a Manchester pub.

That adjective “legendary” was deserved in Joe’s case. He’d a reputation among musicians and a few critics for his prowess as a bop pianist, but there was precious little of his music on record. Some Georgie Auld big band tracks in 1945, a session with a Lester Young small group in 1946. Sadly, he’d had a row and missed a recording date with a Charlie Parker group the same year... then nothing until a private recording of a rehearsal with tenor sax man Warne Marsh appeared on the American Riverside label in 1957. (And I had to chase that record for several years until I caught up with a secondhand copy: but it was worth the wait).

So when Tony Williams, modern jazz devotee and originator of Spotlite Records, announced a new Albany disc in 1972 I got a copy forthwith. It proved a faint disappointment despite the warnings on the sleeve – a home recording made on a domestic recorder by a pianist still practicing to overcome years of neglect and recover his old facility and style. But a moving experience. And there was a promise that with Tony’s help, Joe was quitting the States to settle in Europe, as so many of his compatriots had done already.

And now, one chilly night in ‘73, here I sit with Lisa and about twenty other fans in the small, somewhat cheerless, jazz room of the Black Lion, waiting to hear Joe Albany play.

He’s small, modest, grizzle-haired; looks as though he’d had a rough time living out the past few years. But he can play... you readily forgive the odd clumsiness, the occasional fumble after years of inaction. Forget the deficiencies of the decrepit pub upright. Pray that the rumbustious backing group will hold back and give Joe more room to expand – a young and brash drummer plays at one dynamic level, loud, and the trumpeter tends to rambling and protracted solos that hold up the proceedings. But the moment comes when Joe is left to cope with only the rhythm section and allowed to solo, It proves an evening at once sad and inspiring.

When the first session ends Lisa disappears in the direction of the loo. There are several people jockeying for a word with Joe, but as he comes near the table I am able to snatch a brief conversation with him, to mumble something about how great it is to hear him in person, and ask if he has plans for more recordings. He mentions a session arranged by Tony Williams in Britain, and the hope of later gigs on the Continent, before being nobbled by other admirers just as Lisa returns.
– Well, aren’t you going to speak to him, she hisses, as Joe drifts back to the bandstand.
– l have, I say smugly, still in a euphoric state.
– You liar! grins Lisa.
– It’s true, I did! I protest.
But its no use. Nothing can persuade her that I did. To this day, whenever a turn in the conversation sparks the memory of the event, she will return to the topic, usually with the words: “You didn’t really speak to him, did you?’ and despite my most vehement protests just shakes her head in disbelief.

Like I say, Lisa can be very sceptical.

–––Written for INTERIM I 975 © Harry Turner

to page topSole © RFV&SDS, 2009.email address to contact