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Milt Buckner: Locked Hands


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Yesterday I posted on Go Power!, saxophonist Illinois Jacquet's 1966 album with Milt Buckner on organ and Alan Dawson on drums. In the post, I mentioned that Buckner had created the locked-hands technique on the piano keyboard. Unleashing this difficult approach requires that both hands play the same chords with the song's melody note up on top. Thrilling for the listener, challenging for the player.

Buckner (above) began playing this way on the piano while with Lionel Hampton in the 1940s, largely to be heard over the brass. George Shearing popularized the style in the late 1940s and early '50s, and in interviews he said he picked it up from Buckner. One of the most exquisite examples of Buckner's locked-hands technique can be found on the album Milt Buckner: Locked Hands (MPS). Recorded in 1968, the album featured four songs on the piano and four on the organ, with Jimmy Woode on bass and Kenny Clare on drums.

The piano tracks are Buckner's Glady's Dance, Blues for Anita and Willie's Blues, and Jersey Bounce. The organ tracks are Sunny, Jitterbug Waltz, Li'l Darlin' and Honeysuckle Rose.

A few notes. Dig Clare's brushwork throughout. Feathery and absolutely superb. On the piano, Buckner exhibits this style as a percussive technique. On the organ, there' more emotion, largely because the volume on organ notes can be modulated and  held in places for emphasis. As you can hear on this album, Buckner generated enormous excitement on both instruments with unrivaled skill. [Photos of Kenny Clare above, and Jimmy Woode below]

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Milt Buckner: Locked Hands (MPS) here.

The album also is available at Spotify.

JazzWax clip: Here's Glady's Dance...

And here's George Shearing playing block chords using the locked-hands technique with his quintet on I'll Be Around in 1950. Doesn't get much cooler than this (with Joe Roland on vibes, Chuck Wayne on guitar, John Levy on bass and Denzil Best on drums)...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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