Paradise Valley was Detroit's black entertainment and night life district that flourished from the mid 1930's to the late 1940's. The Valley was located within the black community area known as 'black bottom' on the near east side, less than a mile from the centre of downtown Detroit. Cabarets, restaurants. rib joints, hotels and after-hours spots provided a wide range of both legal and illicit entertainment activities. The most exclusive cabarets were black and tans - catering to a more middle class clientele and after-hours spots such as The Rhythm Club and The B&C Club also catered to integrated audiences.
It was to this hot-bed of musical activity that Sammy Price arrived in the mid 1930's following stopovers in Kansas City and Chicago, having left his native Texas earlier in the decade. In Detroit Sammy hired a new teenaged drummer who was making a name for himself locally - J.C. Heard. This was the beginning of a musical partnership and friendship that continued for over five decades. These duets offer us further insights into Sammy's unique and amazing skills as a solo accompanist and self contained rhythm section - perhaps in a role as he might have played in a Paradise Valley club when a full combo was not hired, with patrons still needing a beat strong enough to make them dance.
Sammy Price has long been recognized for his powerful boogie-woogie stylings and these are well documented on numerous recordings. The present LP continues in the direction of Sam's outstanding solo and duet recordings (with Doc Cheatham) for Canada's Sackville label where in his very personal keyboard approach is applied to interpretations of good popular melodies and the blues. Sammy Price is one of the unique and original voices of jazz music - his remarkable career spanning more than six decades.
GEORGE BENSON was born in Detroit in 1929 and first started playing professionally in the late 1940's. George used to sneak into the ParadiseValley clubs to hear such musicians as Willie Anderson and Dud Bascomb. In 1950 George played at the famous Paradise Theatre (located up Woodward Avenue and originally Orchestra Hall - home of the Detroit Symphony - before giving way to the great big bands of the day led by Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Basie, Lunceford, etc.). There he performed in a big band co-led by Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons! As the Paradise Valley era ended jazz moved uptown and around town and George took part as a professional player alongside such new stars as Tommy Flanagan, Roland Hanna, Barry Harris and Kenny Burrell. They played bebop but George's style and musical thinking also encompasses elements from his early playing in rhythm and blues bands and from his admiration for such 'pre-bop' stylists as Johnny Hodges and Teddy Buckner. It is from this facet of George's musical background that he draws upon to play so compatibly - and beautifully - with Sammy Price.
MARCUS BELGRAVE was born in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1936. Since coming to Detroit in 1963 to join Motown Records as a staff musician. Marcus has become one of the leaders of the Detroit jazz community. He has been constantly in the forefront of efforts to keep jazz in front of the public and has performed. and taught, in many contexts around Detroit and area. He first came to prominence as a member of the Ray Charles Orchestra in the late 1950's - recording and touring with Charles for five years. During the 60's Marcus was based in New York and played the clubs or recorded with a number of leading artists of that period - Max Roach, Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus.
J.C. HEARD was born in Dayton. Ohio in 1917 but grew up in Detroit. He was a tap dancer appearing at local vaudeville houses before taking up the drums - having been inspired by Walter Johnson, Jo Jones and especially Chick Webb. Young J.C. heard these musicians on Monday nights at The Graystone Ballroom, where the top national bands visiting Detroit would play during that era. By the mid-1930's J.C. was working the Paradise Valley clubs with Bill Johnson's Band and Sammy Price's Trio – then leading his own band at The Cozy Corner. He worked with Milton Larkin's band before getting his first big break to join a nationally recognized leader. In April 1937 J.C. Heard joined Teddy Wilson's Big Band - and later he was with Teddy's Sextet (at Cafe Society). Following work with Wilson's big band he played briefly with Benny Carter's Big Band. In the fall of 1942 J.C. replaced Cozy Cole with Cab Calloway. He appeared with Calloway for three years making films, recordings and constantly touring around America.
Originally released on Parkwood Records (LP PW112); Producer - Hugh Leal; Executive Producer - Kathy Leal; Engineer - James Gibeau; Photography - Grant Black; Artwork & design- Phil McLeod- Partners Marketing Services, Windsor; Mastering - Peter Norman, McClear Place; Recorded in the Moot Court Auditorium, University of Windsor, Feb. 26 & 27, 1988 and the Chrysler Auditorium, Art Gallery of Windsor, Feb. 28, 1988.