Willie “The Lion” Smith Day
November 23, 1897 – April 18, 1973
Echoes of Spring/Tea For Two
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Pianist William Smith was born on November 23, 1893 in Goshen, New York.
Smith picked up the nickname “The Lion” for his bravery in WWI combat.
Smith, along with James P. Johnson and Fats Waller, was considered one of the masters of stride piano, a solo style born in 1920s Harlem.
Always well known among musicians, “The Lion” didn’t achieve mainstream popularity until his late 1930s recordings for Commodore.
Of Willie “The Lion” Smith, Duke Ellington once had this to write: “Willie The Lion was the greatest influence of all the great jazz piano players who have come along.” Ellington would write the song “Portrait of the Lion” in tribute.
Here’s The Lion performing his own “Echoes of Spring,” as well as a number from the 1925 musical “No, No, Nanette” called “Tea for Two.” This is as the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1964.