Born January 5, 1931, in Kingston, Jamaica, trumpeter Alphonso Son "Dizzy" Reece moved to England in 1948 to continue his jazz studies, as his countrymen alto saxophonist Joe Harriott and tenor man Ken Terroade would also do. Following some time in Paris, Reece recorded with Ronnie Scott, Victor Feldman and Tubby Hayes for the Tempo and Savoy labels before making his Blue Note debut in 1958. Reece moved to New York the following year on the recommendation of Miles Davis, and recorded for Alfred Lion for the next three years. Reece was in Paris again in the late '60s, working with Hank Mobley and John Gilmore, before returning to New York in the '70s. He has recorded somewhat less since that time, though there were stints with Clifford Jordan and the Paris Reunion Band and his works for Blue Note were recently collected as a boxed set by Mosaic Records. Reece took time out on a Sunday afternoon in August 2005 to talk with AAJ-NY writer Clifford Allen about philosophy, art, cultural change, and the place of modern jazz in society.
AAJ Meets Reece Meets AAJ
Bird and Modernity
Recording and a Philosophy of Playing
Playing and a Philosophy of Temperament
The Drummers and the Beat
Education and Communication
AAJ Meets Reece Meets AAJ
All About Jazz: I started my line of questioning somewhat early, upon leaving Jamaica for England, but could you give an idea of the climate in Kingston at the time you left?
Dizzy Reece: I don't want to go back that far; they've got all that stuff on the market. I'd rather deal with New York City. We can go back another time, because everybody's been dealing with that. It's all out there. I'm interested in updating [people] on what's been going on in New Yorkthe Birdland scene and so forth.
AAJ: So we're jumping aheadI suppose I was curious about the '40s.
DR: Oh, the '40s? It's funny, I was talking with somebody about UFOs and extraterrestrials; are you familiar with that? Around 1947 all of this started, a big trend about UFOs, and it was the first time I'd heard of it. I was about sixteen years old, and strangely enough when I got to Liverpool in 1948, I was walking around (it was just after the war in England) and I saw an interplanetary space station. This was actually an interplanetary society, and they were issuing interplanetary passports. Strange, and this happened during that periodthat's just a brief piece of what I've been going through. I was in Lancashire, England for a while before I went to London and Paris. In Paris was the first time I saw Charlie Parker and Miles Davis; they played the first Paris jazz festival in 1949.
AAJ: So is that how you first met Miles, then?
DR: No, no, I was looking at them from the back of the hall. I was young, and I didn't meet Miles until 1958 or 1959, when he came to London and then again when I went to New York. He was into my recordings, and I did a few recordings in London with Victor Feldman, that have been reissued on Jasmine Records [originally on Tempo]. So I met Miles and I was playing in London in 1958, and I don't know if he'd heard me personally playing, but he'd heard some of my recordings. Surely enough, I met Billie Holiday, and I performed with her, Billie and her dog. She had a lovely dog, a boxer, and I think she's in one of the magazines featured with him, maybe Jazz Times. It was a beautiful dog; he'd just sit there and listen to her sing.
I arrived in the States in October of 1959 after I did my first recording for Blue Note, Blues in Trinity, and I made the second one Star Bright and the rest of those records for Blue Note. This stuff has all been reissued on Mosaic Records as a Mosaic Select.
AAJ: I've got the records, but I have seen the box, yes.
DR: Oh, you've got the vinyl? That's the real stuff. That's good, now let me inquire about you. How did you get these recordings of mine?
AAJ: Out of curiosity, I'd heard your name passed around and I think the Tubby Hayes factor was probably the reason I picked up Blues in Trinity first. I was interested in hearing more of his music and hadn't heard yours, so that got the ball rolling. The opener is so affecting with that out-of-tempo feel that it really perked my ears up. I think I got the other two Blue Notes shortly thereafter, and this was a period that I was grabbing anything and everything I could hear of musicians who didn't come up in the States, Europeans and expatriates who had come to this music from other sources and other areas. That's led to others like Joe Harriott.
DR: Oh, you're familiar with Joe Harriott? I didn't know you were into his stuff. How did you hear Joe?
AAJ: I think it would have probably been before I heard you, actually.
DR: Where was this in time?
AAJ: This wouldn't have been that long ago, maybe five or so years ago. I got some of his work in Chicago at a record store, the stuff with Shake Keane.
DR: Right, when they were getting into a new way of playing. Have you heard my work after that?
AAJ: Yes, some of it. I know the Beehive [Manhattan Project, 1977] and the Futura [From In to Out, 1970], and the New Jazz [Asia Minor, 1962]. I'm still curious about the Honeydew record [Possession, Exorcism, Peace, 1974], I haven't heard that one. I've heard a good chunk, and I got into the music first quite independently. Maybe I told you this already, but...
DR: Well, tell me again.
AAJ: My father was a jazz pianist, so...
DR: What's his name?
AAJ: Jon Allen.
DR: You know this is interesting because my father was a jazz pianist also, and he played music for silent films. Where was your father from?
AAJ: He's from Connecticut, actually. His interest in jazzwell, when I was a kid I didn't like it all that much. I don't think I even liked music that much when I was a kid. I got into it independently because he had his thing, which was piano trios mostly, and he didn't like the horn players as much. I heard a lot of stuff that now I might think was very good, but it didn't grab me at the time because I was looking for things that sounded a bit more forceful. I listened to rock music when I was young.
DR: Well, it's part of your time period.
AAJ: Yeah, it is, and I was about 19 or 20 when I picked up jazz records out of curiosity, thinking that maybe I should give some of this stuff a chance, and I started out with some of the more free thingslate-period Coltrane and Albert Aylerand it might seem like a weird place to start, but it grabbed me right away, a complete washing away of anything else I'd heard before. It didn't take me that long to decide that I wanted to hear as much and everybody as I possibly could.
DR: This is interesting because it's your decade, you know. So you are totally into jazz now, and you love jazz?
AAJ: Yes, that's pretty much primarily what I listen to, though there are other things that I could be informing my mind with as well. That's principally it, though.
DR: Well, that's a good spot. It relates to a lot of other things.
AAJ: It's led me to some other things like Indian classical music, Turkish and North African music as well, so it's not independent of those things.
DR: It's a universal music; like I've said, everybody plays the blues. Indians, Chinese, every group and nationality has the blues. The Portuguese have the Fadodid you ever hear Portuguese music?
AAJ: A little bit.
DR: We have the blues, they have the Fado. It's reflected in most of the Brazilian music you hear, Jobim and all of that has that soundit's the soul, the Fado. We call it the blues. Every nationality has it, it's a common soul for everybody, and it relates. I've studied music from everywhere, and I used to listen to recordings on UNESCO. The United Nations cultural department issued these recordings, and I used to hear a lot of drummers from all over the worldAfrica, Czechoslovakia, Chinese musicit boils down to jazz and blues. Everybody has the blues cry; the Jews have the blues cry, the Arabs have a blues cry and you hear it. It's a good focus, jazz, it goes out and it's reflected back. You have fusion jazz, you have everything, but I get interested right about in the modern jazz period. That tells the story of everything that has been before in the blues idiom.
AAJ: I feel the same way. I start around the early 50s with my attachment to it. class="f-right"> Return to Index...