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Gerry Wiggins & Hassan Shakur: Wiggins & Wiggins

Listening to this album is like being granted access to an intimate family gathering. The family happens to include a piano legend, Gerry Wiggins, and his son, bassist Hassan Shakur. The recording was made at Wiggins’ home in Woodland Hills, Calif. Joe LaBarbera, who lives nearby, brought in his drum kit and sat in on five of the 15 tracks.

Like the great pianists to whom he is most often compared (Tatum, Garner, Wilson, Cole), Wiggins is a stylist in the deepest, truest sense. The particular style that he has been refining for approximately 70 years makes harmonic intricacy sound friendly through melodic clarity and life-affirming swing.

Wiggins is not in the least old-fashioned. He approaches songs like “Yesterdays” and “Have You Met Miss Jones” from new, even odd, angles, and rephrases and redecorates them to his liking. Yet it is hard to imagine someone much younger than Wiggins (who was 84 at the time of this recording) making music this suave and optimistic and unambiguously elegant.

Hassan Shakur keeps sensuous, flowing time and takes plangent solos.

This album is especially valuable because Wiggins has made very few records in the last 20 years, and almost all of his discography is out of print.

Originally Published