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Robert J

Kirk Lightsey

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I was listening to Lightsey's Isotope (Criss Cross) last night, and it occured to me I have no idea what this great pianist has been up to lately, or whether he tours, etc.

There's been no dedicated thread on Organissimo - other than mentions in the "underated pianist" threads. What's up?

I saw him a few times in Detroit and once in Windsor in my teen years. He was playing with trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, just after his Dexter Gordon association. I think they were promoting the Kirk 'n Marcus recording - also on Criss Cross. I just remember sitting near him as he made a little spintet piano sound like a grand. I am pretty sure drummer Roy Brooks and saxophonist Larry Smith were performing too. What a night.

The poor dude doesn't even have his own website or fan site from what I see. The latest recording I could find on the 'net is The Nights of Bradley's w/ Rufus Reid after a 10 year gap in recording - Goodbye Mr. Evans was in 1994.

Anyone else have his recordings, seen him live, or know what he's doing now?

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I think he may be based in Paris or somewhere else in Europe now. From what I have seen he has been fairly active the past couple of years in Europe.

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I think you're right about Paris. I did a search at work on Factiva and got a few hits. Here's a couple of samples:

Detroit Free Press, 3 June 2005. (referring to Baker's Keyboard Lounge gig)

"When he flew in from Paris last November, it was his first local gig in about a decade."

Sydney Morning Herald, 1996

"Little-known in Australia, the Paris-based pianist has a high-profile in Europe where, in addition to his own projects, he plays with two groups immensely popular on the festival circuit: The Leaders (which boasts an impressive line-up including trumpeter Lester Bowie and saxophonists Arthur Blythe and Chico Freeman), and Roots (a repertory ensemble specialising in tributes to influential saxophonists)."

I guess I am lucky to have seen him when I did. And now the Europeans are.

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Very active in Europe, has tours the UK regularly, tow or three times in the last two years. He puts on a good show and his happy to chat. He has a superb pedigree and I agree he should be much better known.

My personal favourite by him is The Leaders Trio, very sweet. There used to be a video around of the Leaders, not too much music but a lot of good talk from Lightsey.

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Lightsey is the pianist on Chet Baker's Prestige trilogy, "On a Misty Night", "Lonely Star" and "Stairway to the Stars". I was just listening to these three the other night and they are prime. Everyone is good, and especially Lightsey and George Coleman. Some of the better Baker I've run into. Lightsey seems to be one of those "B" level musicians who just got lost in the shuffle. Guys like Wade Legge, Hod O'Brien, John Campbell, Larry Willis, James Williams, Johnny Acea and on and on and on.

I'll tell you one thing, if you haven't heard these three Baker efforts, get thee to a nunnery. They're just slightly more "experitmental" (probably not the right word) than a lot of his stuff from the early '60's. As a matter of fact, the team of Baker and Coleman reminds me a whole lot of that great Art Farmer pairing with Cliff Jordan on the Comtemporary CD's "Blame It On My Youth" and "PhD". If I'm not mistaken Baker plays the fluglehorn on these outings, just like Mr. Farmer. Highly recommended. My first and to this point, only exposure to Kirk Lightsey.

Up over and out.

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He did a gig at the Poole Arts Centre, UK last month with a UK group. Sadly, I forgot all about it and missed it. :(

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I recall going to see Kirk Lightsey playing in a trio context a number of times back when I was living in Detroit. It would have been about 1966. Lightsey impressed me a great deal back then and I continue to consider him a very underrated jazz piano player.

I also saw Kirk play solo piano one evening at The Cafe Des Copains in Toronto. That must have been in the late '70's or early '80's, but I am not sure about the dates.

I agree that his playing on the Chet Baker - Prestige - sessions is first rate, as are his Criss Cross dates as both leader and sideman. Kirk also plays on a 1965 Sonny Stitt recording that also features Benny Green on trombone. Lightsey also plays on a number of recordings on the Timeless, Sunnyside, and Limetree labels.

Edited by Peter Friedman

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He moved to Paris perhaps as long as 10 years ago and rarely seems to come to the States anymore. I saw him in Cork this past weekend as we used him for our The Night of the Cookers gig there (Billy Harper, Charles Tolliver, Craig Handy, myself, Kirk, Doug Weiss, also on loan, from Al Foster's band and Eric Harland). He was in great form and great spirits and is also a very energetic and uplifting presence on stage. He's been touring the UK the last couple of weeks with the band he was with at Cork. They really don't come much nicer than him and what a player. He did a CD under his own name with Freddie Hubbard guesting on it in the early 90's I believe, seek that one out, it's killing.

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This is a weird and true story about Kirk Lightsey, but I don't recall the year it happened. He was arrested, booked on charges of fondling various women on the NYC subway. Upon further investigation, not a single woman could identify him as someone who did anything of the sort. The police began to look at the arrests by the arresting officer and found that he was just arresting people with no evidence, eyewitnesses, etc- he just randomly arrested people and charged them with crimes! It turned out in the end that this particular cop arrested scores of people who were completely innocent as Lightsey was. Perhaps that had something to do with why he moved overseas.

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As a couple have said, he works really quite frequently over on this side of the water. His usual drummer is a fantastic player, worth mentioning - Dave Wickens.

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This is a weird and true story about Kirk Lightsey, but I don't recall the year it happened. He was arrested, booked on charges of fondling various women on the NYC subway. Upon further investigation, not a single woman could identify him as someone who did anything of the sort. The police began to look at the arrests by the arresting officer and found that he was just arresting people with no evidence, eyewitnesses, etc- he just randomly arrested people and charged them with crimes! It turned out in the end that this particular cop arrested scores of people who were completely innocent as Lightsey was. Perhaps that had something to do with why he moved overseas.

I remember when that happened (but it was a "jostling with intent to steal", not a "fondling" charge). It was awful -- he was switching trains at the Union Square station, he brushed against a woman's purse trying to get into a crowded express train (everyone in NYC is familiar with this kind of crunch). Two transit police officers decided he had been trying to steal from the woman (!), handcuffed him, arrested him -- he was in jail for 27 hours before being arraigned, missed two gigs -- late afternoon special UN gig, and evening at the Vanguard. Charges were finally completely dismissed almost two months later.

I found snippets from newspaper archives online, including this:

"The woman whose shoulder bag [Kirk Lightsey] was accused of touching has not been identified and, according to the district attorney's office, was apparently unaware that police charged Lightsey with touching her bag. Lightsey, a noted musician, claimed that he merely pushed by the woman to get on the train."

:angry:

Yeah, that might turn me into an ex-pat too...

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Listened to Lightsey with Chet Baker this morning — now I'm looking for trio recommendations, as I don't have any Lightsey-led sessions in my collection. Is the Criss Cross the best starting place? (Probably any place is a good starting place.)

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Wait — I might just have answered my question. Very swinging:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EKLWdL7Dwg

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Note to self: Always check YouTube first. Too bad Criss Cross discs are (usually) stupidly expensive and not easy to find.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXuY6LNbxOo

Kevin Eubanks ... not so much.

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I've never been able to forgive KL for destroying the Criss Cross LP, "The Master" by Jimmy Raney.

A complete mismatch.

Maybe not KL's fault as much as whoever decided to pair this odd couple...

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He did a gig at the Poole Arts Centre, UK last month with a UK group. Sadly, I forgot all about it and missed it. sad.gif

... But pleased to confirm I caught a gig by him and also had a chat a few years later. Even got to ask him about the Chet Baker sessions. A nice guy !

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He moved to Paris perhaps as long as 10 years ago and rarely seems to come to the States anymore. I saw him in Cork this past weekend as we used him for our The Night of the Cookers gig there (Billy Harper, Charles Tolliver, Craig Handy, myself, Kirk, Doug Weiss, also on loan, from Al Foster's band and Eric Harland). He was in great form and great spirits and is also a very energetic and uplifting presence on stage. He's been touring the UK the last couple of weeks with the band he was with at Cork. They really don't come much nicer than him and what a player. He did a CD under his own name with Freddie Hubbard guesting on it in the early 90's I believe, seek that one out, it's killing.

Temptation, on the Timeless label (early to mid-1980s).

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The Leaders Trio - Heaven Dance is worth a listen.

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On 3/3/2015 at 0:32 PM, Late said:

Listened to Lightsey with Chet Baker this morning — now I'm looking for trio recommendations, as I don't have any Lightsey-led sessions in my collection. Is the Criss Cross the best starting place? (Probably any place is a good starting place.)

Hey Late, I came across a used copy of Goodbye Mr. Evans today at Landlocked Music and definitely recommend it if you’re still interested in checking out more of his recordings. 

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He’s coming up soon at the London Jazz Festival for a couple of performances with his trio, for anyone interested and in the London area.

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On 3.11.2005 at 7:20 PM, Dave James said:

Lightsey is the pianist on Chet Baker's Prestige trilogy, "On a Misty Night", "Lonely Star" and "Stairway to the Stars". I was just listening to these three the other night and they are prime. Everyone is good, and especially Lightsey and George Coleman. Some of the better Baker I've run into. Lightsey seems to be one of those "B" level musicians who just got lost in the shuffle. Guys like Wade Legge, Hod O'Brien, John Campbell, Larry Willis, James Williams, Johnny Acea and on and on and on.

 

I'll tell you one thing, if you haven't heard these three Baker efforts, get thee to a nunnery. They're just slightly more "experitmental" (probably not the right word) than a lot of his stuff from the early '60's. As a matter of fact, the team of Baker and Coleman reminds me a whole lot of that great Art Farmer pairing with Cliff Jordan on the Comtemporary CD's "Blame It On My Youth" and "PhD". If I'm not mistaken Baker plays the fluglehorn on these outings, just like Mr. Farmer. Highly recommended. My first and to this point, only exposure to Kirk Lightsey.

 

Up over and out.

Quote

 

.I share your enthusiasm about those Prestige sessions, almost hardboppy up to Chets standards. This is crisp, gripping music, Lightseys piano almost funky and Coleman rough, expressive and ready. You´re right with the flugel. As far as I remember Chets trumpet had been stolen shortly before the sessions."Everything happens to me" a fitting signature beside "Valentine". BTW "Everything happens..." is also covered on a KL trio album  recorded decades later for the Dutch Timeless label. Chet sits in on one of the most beautiful versions of this ballad. Highly recommended, too!

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Kirk has been visiting Detroit more regularly to perform in recent years. Here's a photo of him, me and singer Joan Belgrave (Marcus' widow) taken last summer in Ann Arbor. 

 

Kirk, me, joan.jpg

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