Al & Lucky

Kudos to Jazz Portraits — while many jazz sites have noted the passing of both Al McKibbon and Lucky Thompson, Joe Moore is the only one I’ve found who has done so by posting a photo of the two playing together. I don’t know where the photo came from, but it’s a great one – check it out.

John Levy, longtime friend of Al’s and seven years his senior, also worked with Lucky Thompson back in the day. They played at The Three Deuces with Bobby Tucker on piano.

Life was good. I was 32 years old, and I was making a living in one of the most exciting places in the world—the only place in the world for an enterprising jazz musician to be. Club and concert dates, live broadcasts, and recordings kept me busy. My encounters with Ben Webster, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson and Duke Ellington left me with many wonderful memories. I had engagements with other artists including Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, Mildred Bailey, Red Norvo, and Milt Jackson…

Whenever I could, I’d go off the street to hear other people play; I was always looking to hear a good bass player. I knew Milt Hinton was in New York now, but he wasn’t playing on 52nd Street at the time. I’d try to catch him whenever he was playing. Then one night I heard Al McKibbon playing with Tab Smith up on 135th Street. “Damn, he sure can play,” I told Jimmy [Jones] the next day.

[excerpted from “Men, Women, and Girl Singers“]

When John put down his bass, he hired Al to fill his spot on the bandstand with the George Shearing Quintet. John and Al remained lifelong friends.