May 24, 2024

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Sammy Price, a jazz pianist whose career began in the 1920’s: Video

06.10. – Happy Birthday !!! Texan Sammy was a versatile pianist whose long career encompassed Blues and boogie-woogie and took in swing and jump-blues.

Starting in Dallas as a singer and dancer in Alphonso Trent’s Orchestra, Sammy recorded his song ‘Blue Rhythm Stomp’ in 1929. He formed the Texas Bluesicians based in Kansas, moving the band on to Detroit and eventually to Chicago. Sammy spent some time playing boogie-woogie around New York’s 52nd street at the end of the 30s, and as a house pianist for the Decca label, he backed many stars like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Trixie Smith. Sammy was equally at home playing the Blues in a trio or leading a bigger band playing the jump-blues people loved to dance to, and he also had a long residency at the upscale Roosevelt Hotel in New York.

During the 50s, Sammy played for many years with trumpeter ‘Red’ Allen, and towards the end of the decade he took his music to Europe where he was a big hit. He recorded many times for the French Black and Blue label, sometimes in rollicking barrelhouse style and sometimes in front of a full horn section. His ‘Paradise Valley Duets’ album was cut when Sammy was almost 80, and he pounded the 88s right to the end, with a long residency at the Plaza in Boston.

Sammy Price, a jazz pianist whose career began in the 1920’s, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 83 years old.

Mr. Price was an exceptional pianist whose playing, rooted in blues and boogie-woogie, allowed him to move easily between jazz and rhythm-and-blues. Toward the end of his long career, Mr. Price regularly appeared alone, and his performances were a fascinating mixture of standards (always heavy with blues ideas), boogie-woogie, stride, ragtime and more.

Mr. Price was born in Honey Grove, Tex. He spent the late 1920’s and most of the 30’s working with bands in the Southwest, including those of Alphonso Trent (for whom he danced and sang), Lem Johnson and Leonard Chadwick, and made his first recording, “Blue Rhythm Stop,” in Dallas in 1929. Superviseding Recording Sessions

He moved to New York in the late 1930’s and became a staff musician for Decca records, recording regularly behind blues, jazz and gospel singers. He was also influential in that he suggested personnel for recording dates and supervised sessions. At the same time he led his own group, the Texas Blusicians, which included at different times Ike Quebec and Lester Young. Mr. Price made four recordings with Mr. Young.

In the 1940’s, Mr. Price recorded on his own and with Sidney Bechet and Mezz Mezzrow. In the 1950’s, he moved to Dallas, where he owned two clubs, and then toured Europe with his Blusicians. He also recorded some highly regarded rhythm-and-blues numbers with King Curtis and Mickey Baker from 1956 through 1959.

In later years, Mr. Price worked regularly, by himself and with Two Tenor Boogie, a group that included two tenor saxophones and a drummer. He was a fixture on the festival circuit and in New York City, where he played at the West End and at the Cookery. He played at Condon’s early this year, along with the drummer Vernell Fournier and the saxophonist Heywood Henry.

He died of a heart attack, said his granddaughter, Brenda Bonelli. He is survived by two daughters, Sharon Mack and Mary Bonelli, both of New York.

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