Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith – Willie the Lion – DVD

Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith
Willie the Lion – DVD
Koch Vision – 2004
S. H. Watkins, Sr.

Willie the Lion takes you into the life and times of one of the most brilliant and enigmatic pianists in the history of jazz. One of the originators of a new piano style known as “Harlem Stride,” Willie “The Lion” Smith was a captivating showman and decorated war hero. He was also a mentor and teacher to young musicians like Artie Shaw, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington (who later went on to write the songs “Portrait of the Lion”and “Second Portrait of the Lion” in Willie’s honor.) Even renowned pianist Dr. Billy Taylor was once brought back to earth early in his own illustrious career by the prowess of the Lion.

During his life Smith composed over a hundred songs, including some of the most memorable tunes in the jazz repertoire, but during the 1920s Willie was less known. To improve his standing in the jazz community, he went about gaining a reputation as a hot piano player by playing for rent parties in Harlem private homes and small clubs. As his reputation grew in the 30’s, he began making recordings under his own name and continued to perform, mostly as a soloist, until his death in 1973.

Go rent or buy the video to learn more about this cornerstone of jazz music and to see some timeless performance footage. Also check out the biography information at Red Hot Jazz Archive.