Hazel Scott: 'Relaxed Piano Moods'

The cover of Relaxed Piano Moods

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MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: Hi, I'm Murray Horwitz. Jazz pianists are generally in love with harmony — and so good at inventing it. Why are we inducting this particular piano trio into the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library? Well, partly because it's one of the best piano trios ever assembled, but mostly because it's just such a pleasure. This is pianist Hazel Scott's album, Relaxed Piano Moods, recorded in 1955 for Debut Records. And on it, she's joined by the two men who owned the record company, drummer Max Roach and bassist Charles Mingus.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: Hazel Scott had prodigious piano technique. She was one of the first artists to make her mark in both classical music and jazz. She soloed with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra, among others, but she uses all that technique not to dazzle you, but to give the music a real clarity. She puts in all the lush harmonies you might expect from a post-bebop pianist, but the way she does it — the embellishment makes the ideas shines through very brightly. Listen to part of her solo on Gershwin's "A Foggy Day."

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HORWITZ: Hazel Scott was a great beauty, too. She was famously married to Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. She appeared in several movies, and she was the toast of New York and Paris, where she lived for a while. This album was recorded shortly after she returned from Europe. She's at the peak of her creativity with two fabulous collaborators: Max Roach and Charles Mingus.

[MUSIC]

HORWITZ: The CD is called Relaxed Piano Moods. It's on the Debut label. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

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