Tommy Flanagan – Lonely Town (1959)

frontcover1Known for his flawless and tasteful playing, Tommy Flanagan received long overdue recognition for his talents in the 1980s. He played clarinet when he was six and switched to piano five years later. Flanagan was an important part of the fertile Detroit jazz scene (other than 1951-1953 when he was in the Army) until he moved to New York in 1956. He was used for many recordings after his arrival during that era; cut sessions as a leader for New Jazz, Prestige, Savoy, and Moodsville; and worked regularly with Oscar Pettiford, J.J. Johnson (1956-1958), Harry “Sweets” Edison (1959-1960), and Coleman Hawkins (1961). Flanagan was Ella Fitzgerald’s regular accompanist during 1963-1965 and 1968-1978, which resulted in him being underrated as a soloist. However, starting in 1975, he began leading a series of superior record sessions and since leaving Fitzgerald, Flanagan has been in demand as the head of his own trio, consistently admired for his swinging and creative bop-based style. Among the many labels he has recorded for since 1975 are Pablo, Enja, Denon, Galaxy, Progressive, Uptown, Timeless, and several European and Japanese companies. For Blue Note, he cut Sunset and Mockingbird in 1998, followed a year later by Samba for Felix. Despite a heart condition, Flanagan continued performing until the end of his life, performing two-week stints at the Village Vanguard twice a year, recording and touring. He died on November 16, 2001, in Manhattan from an arterial aneurysm.


Lonely Town is an album by jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan. It is a trio recording, with bassist Joe Benjamin and drummer Elvin Jones.

The album was recorded in New York City on March 10, 1959.

The compositions are by Leonard Bernstein. They are: “America” and “Tonight” from West Side Story; “Lonely Town” and “Lucky to Be Me” from On the Town; “Glitter and Be Gay” and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide; and “It’s Love” from Wonderful Town.

This album contains seven Leonard Bernstein compositions that are associated with four musicals that Bernstein scored.


The songs that are associated with Bernstein’s scores (and the associated musicals) are:
Tracks 1 and 3 (America and Tonight) from West Side Story (1957).
Tracks 2 and 5 (Lonely Town and Lucky To Be Me) from On the Town (1944).
Track 4 (It’s Love) from Wonderful Town (1953),
Tracks 6 and 7 (Glitter And Be Gay and Make Our Garden Grow) from Candide (1956).

For me this is one of my favorite Tommy Flanagan albums, and certainly one that showcases his style on both pensive ballads and a few up tempo tracks.

This album was recorded in NYC for Blue Note on March 10, 1959. Flanagan is backed by Joe Benjamin on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. If there ever was a ‘desert island’ Flanagan album this one would be on my personal short list. (by Mike Tarrani)


Alternate frontcover

Joe Benjamin (bass)
Tommy Flanagan (piano)
Elvin Jones (drums)


01. America (Bernstein) 5.55
02. Lonely Town (Bernstein) 7.28
03. Tonight (Bernstein/Sondheim) 3.44
04. It’s Love (Bernstein) 3.45
05. Lucky To Be Me (Bernstein) 4.15
06. Glitter And Be Gay (Bernstein/Wilbur) 4.13
07. Make Our Garden Grow (Bernstein) 3.10



Tommy Flanagan – Jazz Poet (1989)

FrontCover1By the time of this recording, pianist Tommy Flanagan had been performing for decades — mostly as a sideman — for a who’s who of jazz: players such as Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson, and Sonny Rollins, to name a few. His perfect, yet unassuming style made him the pianist of choice for dozens of musicians. While he has recorded as a leader from time to time, this album may be the best representation of his work available. He performs a set of great tunes (“Caravan,” “Willow Weep for Me,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Lament,” and others) in a topflight trio, with George Mraz on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. Flanagan is at the peak of his powers. Never flashy, never showy, this is just outstanding music performed by a true master who is one of the great bop pianists of the 20th century. (by Steve Loewy)

Tommy Flanagan (piano)
George Mraz (bass)
Kenny Washington (drums)

01. Raincheck (Strayhorn) 4.59
02. Lament (Johnson) 5.09
03. Willow Weep For Me (Ronell) 6.04
04. Caravan (Tizol/Ellington) 6.24
05. That Tired Routine Called Love (Dennis) 6.49
06. Glad To Be Unhappy (Hart/Rodgers) 4.47
07. St. Louis Blues (Handy) 6.35
08. Mean Streets (Anthony/Flanagan/Roth/Van Halen/Van Halen) 4.13
09. I’m Old Fashioned (Kern) 5.43
10. Voce Abuso (Lins) 4.51