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.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.