Dizzy Reece, the great, underrated trumpeter, turned 91 today

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Dizzy Reece, the great, underrated trumpeter, turned 91 today

To celebrate Dizzy Reece’s birthday today, I have listened to Star Bright and Soundin’ Off, two of his recordings on the Blue Note Label that are my kind of music. At 91, Dizzy Reece is one of a tiny number of surviving great musicians from the Golden Age of Jazz music.


Born on January 5, 1931, in Kingston Jamaica, Alphonso Son “Dizzy” Reece started with the baritone saxophone before switching to the trumpet at the age of 14 years. Noting that his son had excellent musical abilities, his mother, a pianist, reportedly shipped him off to England in 1948 so he could secure a future in music. The young man, who was only 17, arrived in England on his own. There, he proceeded to establish a career in Jazz, and spent long periods in Paris and other parts of continental Europe.


Reece re-located to New York City in the late 1950s where his excellence on the trumpet was soon noted by, among others, Miles Davis Jr and Sonny Rollins. Recommendations were made and a promising career began. Between 1958 and 1960, Reece led three very good recordings on the Blue Note label. 


A recording made in London – Blues in Trinity (Blue Note 4006)– was issued in 1958. It is an excellent hard bop date. An original vinyl format copy of this record is a highly sought for item. At the time of this writing, there is only one used original copy for sale on Discogs, available for US $999.99 plus shipping. Affordable used Japanese King and Toshiba reissues, and Blue Note’s Connoisseur series, are available for the rest of us. 


His second Blue Note recording was Star Bright (BLP 4023), made on November 19, 1959, and released in March 1960. This mono recording is excellent musically and sonically.  This is what one expects when you have Reece teamed up with Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Cambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). Reece’s trumpet is passionate, swinging, in the groove, melodious, rhythmic and other descriptors of very fine Jazz music making.


A used original copy of Star Bright is available on Discogs for US1,200. My two copies of this record – Classic Records 33RPM issued in 2003, and Music Matters Jazz 45RPM in 2013 – which I acquired when they were reissued, are excellent alternatives that have brought me hours of pleasure. 


His third Blue Note date, Soundin’ Off (BLP 4033), recorded on May 12, 1960, and released in October 1960, is a very delightful hard bop record that, to my ears, is a rank just below Star Bright in beauty and sonic excellence. Reece teamed up with Walter Bishop Jr (piano), Doug Watkins (bass) and Art Taylor (drums) to produce a very solid performance that rewards repeat listening.


The fourth Blue Note record, Comin’ On (BN 22019), which was made in 1960, was only released in 1999 on CD. To my knowledge there is no vinyl copy of it, though I am not certain about this. I have only heard bits of it on YouTube. It is very delightful music.


Reece’s trumpet sound tends to be fat, reminiscent of Clifford Brown. To my ears, his Blue Note Records place him in the same company with Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Dorham et al. He recorded with, among others, Paul Chambers, Dexter Gordon, Andrew Hill, “Philly” Joe Jones, Duke Jordan, Wynton Kelly, Hank Mobley, and Art Taylor.


Reece seemingly disappeared from the scene during most of the 1960s. Though he was recorded as a leader in 1969 and in the 1970s, he essentially faded off the scene. It is said that he found it hard to fit into New York. Short-lived come-back efforts in the 2000s were not well received by music critics. His star that shone bright in the late 1950s and 1960 had long faded. However, Blue Note Records had captured that shining moment, to be enjoyed by us long after the great man had gone into retirement.


A very happy birthday Mr. Reece. Thank you for the great gift to us.


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