Storyville Records

Lambert, Donald

Donald "The Lamb" Lambert (12 February 1904 – 8 May 1962) was an American jazz stride pianist born in Princeton, New Jersey, perhaps best known for playing in Harlem night clubs throughout the 1920s. Lambert was taught piano by his mother but never learned to read music. For his particularly rapid left hand striding technique, he was a formidable opponent in cutting contests. Lambert is also notorious for an occasion on which he challenged Art Tatum at a jazz concert where other famous players were present. Lambert's discography is very sparse: the only commercial recordings under his name were four titles made for RCA's Bluebird label in 1941, in which he interpreted classical themes: Richard Wagner's Pilgrim's Chorus from Tannhauser, Anitra's Dance by Edvard Grieg, Gaetano Donizetti's Sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor, and Jules Massenet's Elegie. However, several compilations were released in the 1980s containing live recordings dating from 1959–62. Lambert appeared at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival alongside Eubie Blake and Willie "The Lion" Smith and was said to have outplayed both of them. His nicknames included the "Jersey Rocket", "The Lamb", "Muffin", and "The Lamb of God".

Recordings

Donald Lambert: Donald Lambert Recorded 1959-1961

This 69-minute CD (24 tunes), featuring Donald Lambert playing solo piano exclusively, was recorded live in 1959-61; the music has never been released before. The music was recorded in a relaxed, intimate club setting and features standards, show tunes, and many numbers by stride-piano masters such as James P. Johnson and Eubie Blake. Donald Lambert was a stride pianist, where a strong rhythm is always patiently kept by the left hand, without much improvising. Lambert had a fierce left hand – in the tradition of James P. Johnson, Fats Waller and Willie ”The Lion” Smith - while his right hand was often delicate, lyrical and his phrasing exquisite. This CD is full of brilliant stride piano classics, such as ”Hallelujah”, ”Trolley Song” and the powerful ”Keep Off the Grass” - plus Beethoven’s ”Moonlight Sonata”(!). Donald Lambert was one of the best stride pianists, with Fats Waller and James P. Johnson as his only rivals in his younger days.