Joe Albany Day

January 24, 1924 – January 12, 1988

 

The bop pianist gets a birthday tribute

Pianist Joseph Albani (Joe Albany) was born on January 24, 1924 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Albany originally played accordion, switching to piano as a teenager.

During 1942-45 he worked with Leo Watson, Benny Carter, Georgie Auld, and Boyd Raeburn, developing into a top-notch bop pianist.

Albany worked briefly with Charlie Parker in Los Angeles and made some fine recordings with Lester Young in 1946, but problems with drugs and alcohol cut short his potential for decades.

During 1947-70, the only recording of the pianist was a rehearsal session from 1957 with Warne Marsh; his life was a mess and, other than a short stint with Charles Mingus in 1963, he was in compete obscurity.

In 1971 he began to straighten out his life, recording for the Spotlite label, appearing more often in public, making an album with Joe Venuti, and leading sessions for a variety of labels during 1972-80 before ill health slowed him down.

Here is an excerpt from the fascinating 1980 documentary on Joe Albany’s almost-lost career, A Jazz Life.

-Scott Yanow