Willie "The Lion" Smith / Don Ewell Stride Piano Duets: Live In Toronto 1966

Toronto in 1966 must’ve been an odd place, musically, with rock’n’roll jostling the last holdovers of jazz for space in the bar scene just prior to the "Summer of Love” and the shockwave that followed. There were, however, plenty of people going out to hear jazz within the downtown core, which still pulsed with independently owned bars and businesses instead of the faceless institutional murk that exists now. This release of the happy and vital music known as stride piano is not only significant for the nostalgia of Toronto’s past but also for documenting the rarely heard performance of duet stride piano. Willie Smith is a giant of the music and the supremely confident showman, while the lesser-known Don Ewell, quiet in his own way, not only keeps up but plays with such sensitivity that a virtual orchestra of piano blooms out of each piece. The pair saunter through everything from the jump of "Charleston” to the sunny day of "Georgia On My Mind” and there are moments where the pair challenge each other and sparks fly. But for the most part, they play the music as one and the smiles shine through. (Delmark)