Pianist-organist Milt Buckner originated the “locked hands” technique in which parallel lines are played as two-handed “block” chords. The style has been emulated by his and future generations from George Shearing to Oscar Peterson and beyond. From 1941-1948, then again in the early 50’s, Buckner worked as arranger and director for jazz giant Lionel Hampton’s band. He was also instrumental in bringing the Hammond organ into modern popular music. From 1966 until his death in 1977 Bruckner spent most of his time in Europe. For French critic André Hodeir, “Bruckner must surely belong to the front line of pianists along with Earl Hines, Fats Waller, and Teddy Wilson.”
Locked Hands is the second of the MPS Milt Buckner trio albums. Ellington bassist Jimmy Woode is back, and English drummer Kenny Clare takes over Jo Jones’ seat. This set has the particular pleasure of Buckner playing four pieces on piano and four on organ. Glady’s Dance displays Buckner’s inimitable “locked hands” technique, with piano bass and drums trading fours and eights on the way back to the theme. Jersey Bounce, the WWII hit that Benny Goodman brought to #1 on the charts, is taken on in like manner. The Bruckner original Blues for Anita, a slow blues with a swinging 3/4 feel to the beat, is a real crowd pleaser replete with wolf whistles and lots of ahs and ohs, whereas Willi’s Blues is taken at a medium tempo. Buckner plays the bluesy classic Sunny with a relaxed swing on organ, and takes stride master Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz at a fast clip, with a hip organ solo on this surprisingly modern-sounding piece. After a theme-driven organ solo on the popular ballad Lil’ Darlin’, Buckner takes on another Waller classic, Honeysuckle Rose, at the perfect bouncy tempo. It’s clear they’re having fun by their background exclamations; it’s big fun for the listener too.