Known as “the Lion” of the Harlem piano style, Willi Smith was one of the fathers of stride, and a member in good standing of a coterie of certified jazz legends. Throughout the album Smith reminisces about the pianists who congregated in New York and proceeded to revolutionize jazz. His recollections about the music of “my good friends and my pals” as he plays their music are priceless glimpses into the Jazz Age of the ‘20s and ‘30s. The first three pieces are by another one of the founders of Harlem stride, Luckey Roberts; next, Ubie Blake’s beautiful ballad Memories of You, as Smith humming parts of the melody, then Shine with Willi’s off-the-cuff comments and full-tilt ‘rag’ chorus. Smith displays his amazing stride technique on Oh You Devil, and hits the perfect lilting swing to Fats Waller’s hit Keeping Out of Mischief. The Lion plays a medley of three Duke Ellington pieces one after another, as Solitude segues into Sophisticated Lady. Willi’s singing on Some of these Days hints at what it must have been like at one of those whiskey-laced late-night Harlem rent parties. Willi peppers the classic 12th Street Rag with some Harlem stride, and ends with his Theme Song. There’s a cornucopia of jazz evergreens, the nostalgia of peering into the past, and the surprise that there are still discoveries to be made, from what is, after all, great music. The pieces function as an interconnected musical storybook; it is worthwhile to download the complete set.