2

Vic Dickenson: The Essential Vic Dickenson

Mark Barnett By

Sign in to view read count
Vic Dickenson: The Essential Vic Dickenson Getting Started

If you're new to jazz, go to our Getting Into Jazz primer for some hints on how to listen.

CD Capsule

Timeless, straight-ahead 1950's jazz, played with passion and elegance by seasoned musicians at the top of their game. Don't look for bebop or coolness here. These guys weren't interested in revolutions.

Background

Although the 1950's are generally viewed as a period of Father-Knows-Best comfort and conformity, that decade was marked by major upheaval in the world of jazz. The big bands were struggling, dinosaur-like, to avoid extinction amid changes in economics and public taste, while the new sounds of bebop and cool jazz were roiling the air on the east and west coasts. Amid all the turmoil, a loosely bound group of veteran musicians, most of them big-band alumni, continued to play and record straight-ahead, no frills jazz, blissfully uninfluenced by the changes around them.

Some of the best of their recordings were issued under the Vanguard Records label, and of those, the Vic Dickenson Septet series—now re-issued as The Essential Vic Dickenson —is arguably the crème-de-la-crème. Most of the music on this disc is relaxed, easygoing. At the same time, it's openly emotional—by turns sad, playful, joyous, uplifting. And it's pervaded throughout by a certain elegance, which says something about the skill and sensibility of these musicians.

If you buy the disc, choose the genuine Vanguard re-issue for optimum sound quality. (It's a single disc with a photo of Dickenson surrounded by stuffed animals on the cover, and contains 10 tracks, from "Russian Lullaby" to "Suspension Blues.")

Although Dickenson is the nominal "leader," playing time is divided evenly among the key soloists: trombonist Dickenson; trumpeter Ruby Braff; clarinetist Edmond Hall, and pianist Sir Charles Thompson. Each brings a unique, easily recognizable voice to the group. Braff, the youngest member at 26, combines a rich, plummy tone with prodigious technical skill. (He doesn't play on three of the ten tracks.) To discover the roots of Braff's playing, listen to the groundbreaking 1926 Louis Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven disc in "Getting Into Jazz." Hall, also heard in the Wild Bill Davison disc in "Getting Into Jazz," is searing and insistent in the instrument's upper register, gentle and plaintive in the lower. Dickenson brings a unique "voice" to his instrument, shouting, growling, slyly insinuating as he slips and slides from one note to the next. And Thompson is a master at telling musical stories using just a few, perfect notes.

CD Highlights

Track 5, "I Cover the Waterfront"

Many singers have recorded this song over the years, but it will always belong to Billie Holiday. Listen to her wistful, plaintive version, then give the Dickenson crew a chance. Notice how they've respected her approach to the song, expanding and elaborating on the aura she created. In their hands, "Waterfront" becomes an opus, a passionate, eight-minute exploration in which each musician, through a series of increasingly intense solos, engraves his own emotional signature on the melody.

The track opens with Braff laying down the verse with a tone so rich you can almost eat it with a spoon. At 1:03, Hall inserts the bridge, his delicate, breathy sound playing off nicely against Braff's. At 2:03, Thompson's piano solo begins as merely decorative, but at 2:34 he picks it up with some fine improvisation. At 3:01, a brief solo from Dickenson that's a perfect introduction to his swooping, sliding approach to the trombone. Notice that by almost humanizing the instrument's sound, he's able to convey a lot of feeling in just a few notes.

At 3:33, it's back for another brief statement by Thompson, and then at 4:02, Hall reprises the verse —quietly at first, then taking it up a notch with an upper-register outburst. At 4:59, it's Braff's turn to do the bridge. And then comes something special. At 5:32, as Braff is closing his solo, Hall suddenly cuts him off with a long, penetrating note of such raw emotion that it takes us by surprise. Go back and play that sequence again: Braff's last few pretty notes, then Hall's explosive cry of passion. A moment to remember. The rest of Hall's solo, in which he alternately soars and whispers, is possibly the best sequence in the track. After a nicely improvised solo by Thompson, the song is put to rest with Braff blowing hard and hot right up until the end.

Track 2, "Keeping Out of Mischief Now"

Track Listing: Russian Lullaby; Keeping Out Of Mischief Now; Sir Charles At Home; Jeepers Creepers; I Cover The Waterfront; Runnin' Wild; When You And I Were Young, Maggie; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Old Fashioned Love; Everybody Loves My Baby; Suspension Blues; You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me.

Personnel: Walter Page: bass; Edmond Hall: clarinet; Jo Jones (tracks: C1 to D3), Les Erskine (tracks: A1 to B2): drums; Steve Jordan (3): guitar; Sir Charles Thompson: piano; Vic Dickenson: trombone; Ruby Braff (tracks: A1 to B2, C4, D1), Shad Collins (tracks: C1 to D3): trumpet.

Title: The Essential Vic Dickenson | Year Released: 1977 | Record Label: Vanguard Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Getting Into Jazz
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Vic Dickenson Septet
Not On Label (Vic Vogel Self-released)
1993
buy
Just Friends
Not On Label (Vic Vogel Self-released)
1986
buy
Slidin' Swing
Not On Label (Vic Vogel Self-released)
1957
buy
Vic Dickenson Septet,...
Not On Label (Vic Vogel Self-released)
0
buy

More Articles

Read Jazz/Concord Getting Into Jazz Jazz/Concord
by Mark Barnett
Published: July 17, 2017
Read Together (Maxine Sullivan Sings The Music Of Jule Styne) Getting Into Jazz Together (Maxine Sullivan Sings The Music Of Jule Styne)
by Mark Barnett
Published: May 7, 2017
Read The Essential Vic Dickenson Getting Into Jazz The Essential Vic Dickenson
by Mark Barnett
Published: March 15, 2017
Read Suddenly It's Spring Getting Into Jazz Suddenly It's Spring
by Mark Barnett
Published: November 28, 2016
Read The Commodore Master Takes Getting Into Jazz The Commodore Master Takes
by Mark Barnett
Published: October 12, 2016
Read Stan Getz And The Oscar Peterson Trio Getting Into Jazz Stan Getz And The Oscar Peterson Trio
by Mark Barnett
Published: September 16, 2016
Read "The Commodore Master Takes" Getting Into Jazz The Commodore Master Takes
by Mark Barnett
Published: October 12, 2016
Read "Suddenly It's Spring" Getting Into Jazz Suddenly It's Spring
by Mark Barnett
Published: November 28, 2016
Read "Stan Getz And The Oscar Peterson Trio" Getting Into Jazz Stan Getz And The Oscar Peterson Trio
by Mark Barnett
Published: September 16, 2016
Read "The Essential Vic Dickenson" Getting Into Jazz The Essential Vic Dickenson
by Mark Barnett
Published: March 15, 2017
Read "Jazz/Concord" Getting Into Jazz Jazz/Concord
by Mark Barnett
Published: July 17, 2017
Read "Together (Maxine Sullivan Sings The Music Of Jule Styne)" Getting Into Jazz Together (Maxine Sullivan Sings The Music Of Jule Styne)
by Mark Barnett
Published: May 7, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.