If Teddy Wilson was dignified elegance personified, Stuff Smith was devil-may-care and all stops out. Living in Denmark for the last two and a half years of his life, he was treasured for his unrivalled vitality and exuberance. On these 14 1965-66 tracks (picked from five previous Storyville releases) we hear him almost burning the house down, fronting the regular ‘house trio’ of the Montmartre (Kenny Drew, NHØP, and Alex Riel) as well as duetting with legendary Danish fiddler Svend Asmussen (whose elegant playing is quite different from Smith’s, but no less exciting), and the lesser-known Poul Olsen. Both instrument colleagues tend to make Smith play a dash more restrained, and both are obviously inspired by him.
It is said that there are people who do not consider the violin a ‘real’ jazz instrument. If so, I urge them to listen to the 75 minutes here. If this isn’t the essence of jazz playing, I don’t know what is.