The Chiaroscuro Jazz label has begun the worthy project of re-issuing a series of recordings by the pianist Dick Wellstood. Live At Hanratty’s
is an excellent introduction to this much underrated pianist. It is a solo outing, from 1981, digitally re-mastered. Throughout, Wellstood demonstrates why Sidney Bechet recorded with him twice, and also why he was chosen, at different times, by Bob Wilber, Roy Eldridge, and Gene Krupa as a touring pianist. Wellstood’s mastery of traditional styles such as swing, stride, blues, and boogie-woogie might be part of the reason he was tapped.
Another might be that he has few peers in the traditional jazz piano world, and Live At Hanratty’s illustrates just how good Wellstood can be. His ability to seamlessly weave together different styles into a coherent whole is a tribute to his musical agility and intelligence. He also has a keen sense of timing and drama, demonstrated by his playful shifts of tempo and his sly sense of humor. Wellstood’s solos are always an adventure, it seems as much for him as for his audience.
One of the highlights of this recording is "Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You." This two minute piece begins with a mock classical entrance that slides quickly into a blues with a slow walking bass line. Sidney Bechet’s "Quincy Street Stomp" is a whirlwind ragtime that presses at the edges of that form. "Ain’t Misbehavin'" gets a sunny, coy performance with dashes of stride before the pace quickens to a boppish tempo and then returns to the opening mood.
Dick Wellstood can do just about anything with the piano, and before this long set is over he just about does. The recording is sharp and clear, and the performance is first rate. Imagination has wings of its own, and on this recording Wellstood does a good bit of flying. Highly recommended.
Personnel: Dick Wellstood, solo piano.