Adam Fairhall/Johnny Hunter – Winifred Atwell Revisited
(EFPI FP038. CD review by John Stevenson)
Winifred who? This is the most likely response from the vast majority of people hearing the name Winifred Atwell for the first time.
The Trinidadian-born piano prodigy (1914-1983), however, remains the most successful female instrumentalist in the UK. She had a Number 1 in the UK singles chart in 1954 with the ragtime composition Let’s Have Another Party and sold over 20 million records.
She came to England to study at the Royal Academy of Music in the 1940s and enjoyed great popularity on television and radio throughout the 1950s, uniquely marrying boogie-woogie, classical music training and jazz improvisation.
She frequently performed using two pianos – a Steinway grand and a battered and out of tune upright.
With a legion of fans including Elton John and Liberace, Atwell also lived in Australia where her career flourished before being cut short by a stroke in 1980 and passing away three years later.
Versatile pianist Adam Fairhall (The Spirit Farm, Nat Birchall) and resourceful drummer Johnny Hunter (Revival Room, The Spirit Farm, Sloth Racket) join forces in a delightful tribute to Atwell on Winifred Atwell Revisited.
It’s amazing what two immensely talented musicians can do with just a trapset and a piano; Fairhall and Hunter bring Atwell’s irrepressible spirit to life, at times echoing Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton, on tunes such as Black and White Rag, Roll Out the Barrel (Beer Barrel Polka) and My Old Man.
The haunting, tango-like Taboo and the Herbie Nichols-tinged Boogie for Atwell round out a highly becoming homage to a towering piano talent.