Richard Twardzik, the rather haunted-looking pianist who was a mainstay of the Boston jazz scene in the early 1950s, recorded only once as a leader before dying at the age of 24 during a European tour with Chet Baker. His quirky, fluid style, influenced by Bud Powell and Art Tatum and sprinkled with touches of dissonance and Twardzik’s classical-music education, has led some to compare him to fellow 1950s iconoclasts Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Now Bouncin’ With Bartok, a long-awaited study of the pianist’s life and recordings written by Jack Chambers (author of the Miles Davis biography Milestones) is finally coming out. The book had initially been slated for publication several years ago, but problems on the publisher’s end delayed it repeatedly; placed with another press, it should be showing up in October.
Chambers has already posted a Twardzik discography and a draft of the book’s introductory chapter. Granted, a biography of an obscure jazz pianist who died young is not exactly the last installment of Harry Potter, but for a certain small number of passionate jazz devotees around the globe it’s good news nonetheless. Look for (or listen for) a long-postponed Richard Twardzik Night Lights program in January that will include an interview with Chambers. In the meantime, if you’re interested in hearing some music from the scene that produced Twardzik, check out the previous Night Lights show Boppin’ in Beantown.