Connoisseurs of jazz piano trios will welcome the release, on March 31, of Only Time Will Tell, the new trio recording by piano master Mike Longo with Paul West on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. The disc is Longo's 20th for the CAP (Consolidated Artists Productions) label, and his 26th since debuting as a leader in 1962.
Included on the CD are two compositions by Dizzy Gillespie, with whom Longo worked as pianist and musical director for 26 years, until Gillespie's death in 1993. The up-tempo "Wheatleigh Hall" was first recorded by the trumpeter in 1957 on an album with Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt. The gently swinging "Just a Thought," written by Gillespie in the '60s as a piano feature, had never been previously recorded.
Longo's trio-mates had their own associations with Gillespie. West had done two stints with the trumpeter -- in the '50s with Dizzy's big band and again in the '60s with the quintet that included Longo. Nash had worked with Gillespie on several occasions in subsequent years.
Mike Longo Trio Longo, West, and Nash play two Thelonious Monk tunes -- "Nutty" and "Brilliant Corners" -- on Only Time Will Tell and also offer their takes on Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark"; "Exactly Like You," delivered at an ultra-slow tempo; and Eubie Blake's "Memories of You," which closes the album. Among the Longo originals are the bossa nova-propelled "Stepping Up"; "Conflict of Interest," first recorded for a 1994 quintet album dedicated to Gillespie; and the gently waltzing title track, inspired by a documentary about Lyndon Johnson. "I started feeling sorry for him and went to the piano and wrote it," says Longo. "The point of the title is that after the passage of time, things may appear different than when you originally perceived them." (Pictured at left: Lewis Nash, Mike Longo, Paul West.)
The son of a band-leading bassist father and a church organist mother, Michael Longo Jr. was inspired as a child by boogie-woogie pianists Sugar Chile Robinson in his native Cincinnati, and Jack Fina later in Fort Lauderdale, where the Longos had moved when he was in the third grade. While in Florida, Longo was later inspired by jazz piano master Oscar Peterson, with whom he would eventually spend six months studying privately.
After earning a bachelor's degree in classical piano at Western Kentucky University, in 1959, Longo spent two years touring with the Salt City Six, the Dixieland group, and was hired at the Metropole Café in New York as one of the club's house pianists. In his two shifts a day, he backed Coleman Hawkins, Gene Krupa, and Henry "Red" Allen, among many others.
Mike Longo Gillespie, who first heard the young pianist at the Metropole, hired him in 1966. Longo went on to make nine albums with the trumpet legend, beginning with Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac in 1967, and has also recorded with Astrud Gilberto, Lee Konitz, Buddy Rich, and Moody, to name just a few. He cut the first album under his own name, A Jazz Portrait of Funny Girl, in 1962; his last 20 have appeared on Consolidated Artists Productions (CAP), a musicians' cooperative label managed by Longo and his wife. He also has enjoyed a successful second career as an educator and creator of instructional books and videos.
Since January 6, 2004, the anniversary of his friend Dizzy Gillespie's death, Longo has presented concerts every Tuesday evening in the Gillespie Auditorium of the New York City Baha'i Center. Longo will appear there 4/25 with his 17-piece New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble featuring Ira Hawkins. He'll be performing at Mezzrow 5/25 with Paul West.