Mainstream presents swing masters Joe Thomas and Vic Dickenson fronting all-star bands in a time when swing music was elbowing for attention amidst the world of be-bop, cool, and other modern jazz movements. The year was 1958, and English jazz critic Albert J. McCarthy was in New York City writing a book on swing. Surprised to find how difficult a time even the best swing musicians were having in the homeland of jazz, he approached Atlantic Records to sponsor two recording sessions.
The first session featured underrated trumpeter Joe Thomas with a band that included Dickie Wells, Buddy Tate, Buster Bailey, and oddly enough, modernist Herbie Nichols on piano. The second session featured the great trombonist Vic Dickenson, Buck Clayton, and Gene Ramey. Both sessions have been re-mastered; the sound quality is excellent. So are the performances.
Joe Thomas is still grotesquely underrated, and if anyone needs evidence of his mastery this is the recording to bring home that Thomas was among the best of his instrument. Over the years he played and recorded with Fletcher Henderson, Teddy Wilson, and Art Tatum to mention a few. His clear, assured sound and technical skill makes it obvious why McCarthy felt compelled to document this neglected musician. Two-thirds of the disc features Thomas and his band.
The other third features Vic Dickenson who has faired better in the annals of jazz history. He is known for his bluesy-toned trombone of exquisite phrasing. Lauded by the famous French jazz critic Andre Hodeir as one of the best of all early jazz musicians, Dickenson doesn’t disappoint on this disc. Although his solo time is limited in the ensemble focus of the arrangements, his solo on "The Lamp Is Low" is particularly memorable. Actually, with either Dickie Wells or Vic Dickenson playing trombone and either Joe Thomas or Buck Clayton playing lead trumpet this is a brass player’s disc if there ever was one. In short, if you’re interested in a satisfying, swing recording featuring a line-up of outstanding soloists, good rhythm sections, and a selection of solid arrangements, then Mainstream is definitely worth checking out. Recommended.
Track Listing: Sweethearts On Parade; I Can
Personnel: Joe Thomas, trumpet; Johnny Letman, 2nd trumpet; Dickie Wells, trombone; Buddy Tate, tenor sax; Buster Bailey, clarinet; Herbie Nichols, piano; Everett Barksdale, guitar; Bill Pemberton, bass; and Jimmy Crawford, drums. Vic Dickenson, trombone; Buck Clayton, trumpet; Hal Singer, tenor sax; Herbie Hall, clarinet; Al Williams, piano; Danny Barker, guitar; Gene Ramey, bass; and Marquis Foster, drums.