March 16, 2005


Today is the birthday of the late Tommy Flanagan (1930-2001), one of the great jazz pianists, and perhaps my favorite piano player of all time. A Detroit native, Tommy came out of that city in the 50's along with the Jones brothers (Hank, Elvin and Thad), Kenny Burrell and Milt Jackson. In the late 50's he was the pianist on 2 of the finest/most influential albums of all time, Sonny Rollins's "Saxophone Colossus" and John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Through much of the 60's he worked as an accompanist for singers, most notably, Ella Fitzgerald. Throughout the 80's and until his death in 1999, he returned as a featured pianist in trios that always featured great drummers and bassists (George Mraz, Peter Washington, Kenny Washington, etc.) He was a player of uncommon intelligence and touch and was widely admired by all of the great players in jazz. Although he never made a bad recording to my knowledge, here are 2 of my favorites:

Jazz Poet


Thelonica (a tribute to the music of Thelonious Monk):

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at March 16, 2005 3:53 PM

He's on my 2nd tier, a half step behind McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans but in outstanding company nonetheless (Powell, Monk, Peterson, etc.) The one thing he was better at than any of the other star jazz pianist was as an accompanist. Nobody made a singer sound so good, only George Shearing ever even came close.

Posted by: Jeff at March 16, 2005 7:05 PM