Every blue moon, someone like Boyd Lee Dunlop comes along who blows jazz fans' minds. In December 2011, Dunlop, a jazz pianist, was discovered in a Buffalo, N.Y., nursing home. He was profiled on NPR and in newspapers, including The New York Times (go here), and he recorded an albumBoyd's Blues.
Then everything came crashing down. The 85-year-old Boyd suffered a heart attack and was thought to be dead for about six minutes. Medics were able to get his heart beating again, and Boyd miraculously made a full recovery. So full, in fact, that he announced he wanted to leave the nursing home and record another album.
And so he did. The result is The Lake Reflections. It's one of the most penetrating solo piano albums I've heard in some time. Dunlop's sensitivity and warmth is otherworldly, and his ability to fill space with delicately ringing notes and chords will hit you squarely. [Photos above by Todd Heisler/The New York Times]
Boyd Lee Dunlop is famed drummer Frankie Dunlop's younger brother. According to Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, Boyd Dunlop appeared on just two recoding sessionsone led by saxophonist Moe Koffman in 1948 and another led by Big Jay McNeely in 1953, which produced the single sides 3-D; Nervous, Man Nervous; Rock Candy and Texas Turkey.
And that was it. Dunlop went to work at Buffalo steel mills and in the city's rail yards, and he nearly ended his life in a bed. Until freelance photographer Brendan Bannon met him at the nursing home inadvertantly. A connection grew and Mr. Bannon wound up producing Dunlop's his first album.
Now his second album is out and it's positively goregous. Dunlop carries with him a lifetime of experienceselation, disapointment, pain, joy and patience, and all are expressed here in a primitive elegance. Like painter Grandma Moses, Boyd's expressions are folk-centered and whistfully improvisational.
What you learn from Dunlop's music is that the heart need not show up dressed in tails. Sometimes you can deliver your soul in an unpolished way and still achieve the same results.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Boyd Lee Dunlop's Lake Reflections (B Sharp) here.