James P. Johnson: 1944, Volume 2

This is the sixth in Classics’ “chronogical” (sic) series devoted to James P. On a dozen sides from three sessions (June, August and September), the great pianist is accompanied only by drummer Eddie Dougherty. On four other titles, he plays as a sideman in a septet nominally led by Max Kaminsky, with Pod Cless on clarinet. Cless reappears on a later date at the head of a quartet completed by Sterling Bose, Johnson and Pops Foster (no drums, somebody evidently overslept).

The first four duo titles were part of a tribute to Johnson’s protégé, Fats Waller,who had died shortly before. Johnson himself was still suffering from the effects of his first stroke, hence the help of Dougherty. His playing lacks perhaps his customary strength, but for space, light and logical structure, it is still delightful. His solos easily steal the group performances, and numbers like “Carolina Shout” and “If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight” are salutary reminders of his position as one of the few genuine jazz composers.