When Terry Pollard died the other day, I scoured the internet in hopes of finding video of her playing. I had no luck. But moments ago, Mark Stryker of The Detroit Free Press notified me that a clip has appeared on YouTube of the pianist in Terry Gibbs’s quartet on The Tonight Show in 1956. They play “Gibberish,” on the harmonic pattern of “Oh, Lady Be Good,” then a riotous vibes duet on the Charlie Parker blues “Now’s The Time” with Tonight Show host Steve Allen accompanying on piano. This is an unexpected treasure.
In his accompanying e-mail, Stryker asks:
… while her piano playing is really out of Bud, after watching the clip a couple times, I hear some similarities with early Horace Silver in the pinging evenness of her articulation, the blues allusions and the rumble in her left hand. Do you hear this or am I imagining — Blue Note trio Horace, when he was still playing long 8th note lines, before he distilled his right hand into short, jabbing ideas.
Yes, and I detect in Pollard’s work another derivative of Bud Powell’s influence, that of Hampton Hawes. Pollard spent some time with Gibbs on the west coast when Hawes was at his peak.
But, influences, schminfluences; she was an original.
Pollard’s only album as a leader was a 10-inch vinyl LP on the Bethlehem label, recorded in 1955, less than a year before the Tonight Show appearance. Her quintet included guitarist Howard Roberts and the brilliant trumpter Don Fagerquist. It was never reissued on a 12″ LP, much less on a CD. The 10-incher shows up on e-Bay and other web sites as an expensive auction item. But three tracks of the Terry Pollard LP are included on this CD compilation of performances by Fagerquist, who died in 1974 at the age of 46.