Recorded in 2001 at the Montreal Bistro in Toronto for broadcast on CBC Radio, this album finds McShann singing and playing with typical joie de vivre. Forever identified as the leader from whose band Charlie Parker emerged, he has led a career fortified by the blues, boogie-woogie and stride piano, and the down-home side of jazz. This is one of those albums that can clear the air of a surfeit of musical intricacies and technicalities and make you glad to revisit the basics.
Assisted by the fine team of tenor and soprano saxophonist Jim Galloway, bassist Rosemary Galloway and drummer Don Vickery, McShann performs familiar fare such as the title tune, “Confessin’ the Blues,” “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” and “Deed I Do.” Saxophonist Galloway’s backing and solos are a gas—most appropriate to the leader’s era. On “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” his soprano recalls the sophistication of Johnny Hodges. On tenor on “When the Lights Go Out” and elsewhere, he takes his time, pushes his notes along and suggests the warmth and tonal palette of Bud Freeman, Ben Webster and Rick Fay.
The performances are rooted in McShann’s Kansas City swing: light, tinkling piano lines with a splashy ripple here and there, basic chord voicings and always an uplifting rhythmic pulse. At the end of the music, there’s a 24-minute interview with McShann recorded in 2003 at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland.