Eubie Blake

I’ve been listening to some Eubie Blake lately, the kid who wrote the “Charleston Rag” in 1899, when he was twelve, and who lived and performed until the early 1980s. Probably his most famous tune is “Memories of You,” and I’ve been listening to – and absolutely loving – a recording he made for John Hammond. I just came across the following moving rendition, made when he was in his late nineties. You can hear a good chunk of the history of jazz in it: the frilly embellishments, the abstractions, swing, richly colored chords, and maybe most of all the deep individuality, the human exploration. Here’s a man who’d been playing this tune for sixty-some years, who is still charting out what it means, still fully awake and responsive to its hidden, vital springs.

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