|Dizzy Reece (1959)...|
In 1959 Jack Cooke wrote a short introduction to Dizzy Reece. The article appeared in Jazz Monthly and this is an extract from it...
Originality of style in the jazz world is a rare thing, and for fairly obvious reasons.Since it is an improvised music, the aspiring jazz musician can best learn his trade by constantly listening to other jazz musicians, and in consequence he becomes more often than not an imitator. For the vast majority it is enough to adopt the style of an important musician and play within it, since the improvised nature of the music and the inevitable influence which musicians other than his chosen idol must have upon him allow him sufficient freedom of self-expression in his work. Jazz musicians in Europe have to contend with the difficulty of having had until recently only sporadic contact, mostly through records, with the original stylists of jazz. Although this can lead to a certain amount of self-reliance it often produces a more rigid form of imitation, and the chances of an artist of consequence appearing away from the main centres of jazz activity are remote, to say the least. It is, therefore, greatly to his credit that Dizzy Reece has emerged as a jazz trumpeter of international stature and more important still is the fact that he is now one of the few truly original stylists on his instrument. Whilst it is a truism to say that the whole of modern jazz is dominated by the influence of Charlie Parker, so much so that it is almost impossible for an alto player to think in any other terms than Parker's, the trumpet in modern jazz has been subjected to several influences of a less overpowering nature. In order to place Dizzy's achievement in perspective it might be rewarding to examine these influences briefly.
To all intents and purposes we can regard Gillespie as the originator of the bop trumpet style, yet by the middle 'forties his style, unlike Parker's was already being modified: Fats Navarro had become a major soloist in his own right and Miles Davis' style was developing into a complete antithesis of Gillespie's. How much of this development was due to Gillespie's continual absence from New York, touring with his big band, is a matter of speculation.Nevertheless it seems fairly obvious that the generation of post-Gillespie trumpet players was not faced with an overwhelming singularity of style as was the case with other instruments.
Consequently it was possible for Clifford Brown and Kenny Dorham to find individual modes of expression and add to the influences prevalent upon young trumpeters of today. The situation has altered during the past three years since the death of Clifford Brown and the emergence of Miles Davis and Kenny Dorham as fully matured stylists. The more recent arrivals on the modern jazz scene have displayed considerable technical skill on their instruments but have adopted an eclectic manner so far as the use of this skill is concerned. It would be patently foolish to condemn these young musicians as worthless imitators so early in their careers, yet it does seem that Dizzy Reece is becoming a more important jazz trumpeter than his transatlantic contemporaries.
Born in Jamaica on 5th January, 1931 Alfonso Son Reece came to Europe in 1948, and was heard publicly in London in the early 'fifties with Kenny Graham's Afro-Cubists, having aquired the name of Dizzy somewhere along the way. The first time I heard Dizzy in person was with the Afro-Cubists, and even in those early days Dizzy, whilst not yet a skilled technician, was already showing considerable originality in his solos although still greatly under the influence of Gillespie. Later he discarde many of the Gillespie runs and fill-ins which was evident in his early work, and by the time he joined the Tony Crombie orchestra in the autumn of 1954 his playing had all the basic qualities which can be found in his work today.
Tony Crombie's band in late 1954 and early 1955 was in many ways unique in British jazz history. Smaller than the conventional big band, probably because of both economic and musical considerations, it drew heavily for inspiration upon the work of Tiny Kahn and of James Moody's recording band of 1948 on Blue Note. The most remarkable quality of the group was its unrelenting attack, and Dizzy's improving ability to give his thoughts clear expression added the distinctive solo voice the band needed; equally Dizzy seemed to profit by having at last the strong rhythmic support he needed to express himself fully. It was at this time that he began also to make some name for himself as a composer and the Crombie recording of Stop it (Decca DFE6247)shows Dizzy in an excellent light as both composer and soloist as well as being the most definitive example of the band's remarkable vitality.
Ever since his arrival in Europe Dizzy has been a constant traveller; until 1957 he was on the move around the Continent and only rarely heard in England. During 1957, however, he appeared fairly often in London's clubs and in that year the remarkable Progress Report LP (Tempo TAP9) was released.
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Compiled from small group recordings made throughout 1956, this album finally captured much of the brilliance and inventiveness of Dizzy's trumpet playing, yet it seems already to be more of an interim statement of Dizzy's abilities than the full expression of his talent; the title Progress Report was a particularly happy choice on the part of Tony Hall. In the early part of 1958 Dizzy organised a quartet on a full time basis, supported by bassist Lloyd Thompson, drummer Phil Seamen and pianist Pat Smythe. Since Thompson and Seamen had been close musical associates of Dizzy in the past, the quartet quickly developed a sense of unity often missing from Dizzy's groups and although forced to disband after only a few weeks without having been recorded, the musical quality of this group set the pattern for what was a particularly successful year, musically speaking for Dizzy. After his quartet venture he went to Paris for some months and was the leader on the Anglo-American recording date Blue Note (BLP4006) which led to his recently signed Blue Note contract. Also during 1958 he worked on the jazz-background score for Ealing Films' Nowhere To Go and in October recorded, with considerable success, some of the themes Tempo (EXA86).
Determined to play in his own way, he has had a long struggle with bandleaders and club owners unwilling to allow him the latitude he needs to express himself freely. This may have been one of the causes of his perpetual wanderings around Europe, another cause almost certainly being the fact that the intransigent attitude of others has led to his being out of work for long and frequent periods. This fact, in turn, means that it is almost impossible for him to form a regular group, although a cohesive, integrated rhythm section is a necessity to Dizzy's conception.
Confusion has followed Dizzy like a cloud, his rare appearances being marred by missing bassists, bewildered pianists and the like. Throughout all this, however, Dizzy remains apparently unworried. Nevertheless his attitude towards both club owners and audiences has come to be one of indifference, although he is not basically an unfriendly person.
The overpowering emotional content evident in all his work has led to his being dismissed by many critics as hopelesly erratic. His solos often have an angry sound and his work is variable in quality yet it is always easily recognisable as his own style, his personal means of expression. It is obvious that a musician with so much to say will at times find some difficulties of expression and to merely label him "erratic" is to side-step the problem of evaluating his work seriously. I feel his work is worthy of serious consideration; that at least we have living and working here a jazz musician of great potential. Like many prophets, he is without honour in his own country; he is in the anomalous position of commanding respect among musicians and critics whilst at the same time he remains virtually unemployed. At the time of writing he has not appeared in public for seven weeks, although he appears to accept the situation philosophically. I think he would benefit by an increase appreciation of what he is trying to do, although in the end his work will bring its own reward for, virtually without actual contact with the main creative forces of jazz, Dizzy has come to occupy a unique position among contemporary trumpet players.
Jack Cooke (1959)
Shortly after this article was written Dizzy quit the UK for good and did not record with British musicians again.
Dizzy Reece discography...
Dizzy Reece in New York (1959-2006)...