|Denzil Best pictured by Bill Gottlieb|
Yesterday was the birthday of Denzil Best (1917-1965) a musician whose life was sadly defined by bad health. He started on trumpet, but had to abandon it when he was very young because of a pulmonary illness. He then went on to play the piano and bass, and finally the drums, on which his brushwork was masterful. Later in life he had problems with his wrists, and finally died after an accident.
Interestingly, in spite of a few good recordings, his place in posterity is secured because of a number of compositions. "Allen's Alley" (a/k/a "Wee"), "Dee Dee's Dance", "45-Degree Angle" (later modified by Herbie Nichols), "Bemsha Swing" (co-signed with Thelonious Monk), and his most famous opus, "Move". Now you'll see why Best deserves all the posterity we can get him.
This is George Shearing's Quintet with Best himself on drums (the rest of the band are Don Elliott on vibes, Chuck Wayne on guitar, and John Levy on bass, circa 1950—normally this video is slightly sped up, but I've corrected the speed and pitch myself).
This is probably the best-known version of this track, arranged by John Lewis and recorded in 1949 by Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool nonet, with Lee Konitz on alto sax, Al Haig on piano and Max Roach on drums, among others.
Next up is the first "Move" I ever heard, recorded live at Storyville in Boston, 1951, by Stan Getz and Jimmy Raney, with another composer/arranger and master drummer with the brushes, Tiny Kahn (plus Teddy Kotick on bass and Al Haig again on piano). Listen to the excitement at the end of the drums solo.
This one is the earliest studio recording I know (from late 1948—there's an earlier broadcast by Miles Davis and the nonet), by Fats Navarro. Don Lanphere is on tenor and Max Roach again on drums.
... which seems to have been the basis for this one, led by Art Taylor and the personnel you can see on the screen, recorded in 1960.