Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lee Shaw Trio: Live in Graz

Artists Recording Collective
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.3.09
Buy CD: Live in Graz

If you haven't heard of pianist/composer/arranger Lee Shaw, you're not old enough; she's another living legend.

Born in Ada, Okla., in 1926, Lee began to study piano at age 5. During a time when few women attended college, she earned a bachelor of music degree in piano at the Oklahoma College for Women, and followed it with a master's degree in piano at Chicago's American Conservatory of Music.

When she began playing in Chicago clubs, she shared billing with the likes of Anita O'Day, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. Studying with Oscar Peterson turned Lee into the jazz pianist she later became. She met her future husband, drummer Steve Shaw; they formed a piano trio, moved to New York City and toured for more than 40 years.

Steve Shaw died in 2001, but that wasn't the end of Lee's career; drummer Jeff Siegel replaced Steve and, with bassist Rich Syracuse, the new trio performs to this day.

This album, recorded live in 2007 at Café Stockwerk in Graz, Switzerland, contains both a CD and DVD. The CD audio state of the art and sounds excellent; unfortunately, that isn't the case on the DVD. That said, the DVD includes interviews as well as the performance, and provides wonderful background information. You'll see that Shaw — well into her 80s — remains a vibrant person.

She wrote and arranged five of the eight tunes on this CD. Her style echoes the 1950s, but her performance is more “alive” than many of today's musicians. It's marvelous that an 83-year-old still does what she loves, and this “time capsule” release will make those who shared her generation feel young again.

And, yes, the lady still swings!

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