December 2008

Dizzy Reece - Soundin' Off
Blue Note/Classic Records 4033
Format: LP
Originally released: 1960
Reissue released: 2008

by Marc Mickelson

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Jamaican-born trumpeter Dizzy Reece became a professional musician at 16 and spent much of the 1950s playing in Europe, emigrating to the US in 1959. His playing is some of the most recognizable from hard bop's golden era, yet Soundin' Off was the last of four critically acclaimed Blue Note releases, none of which brought him the recognition that other musicians, including Miles Davis, predicted. What sets Reece apart from Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown and others is his rich, sustained tone. His innate lyricism works wonders with standards like "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You" or "Love is Here to Stay," which are richly accompanied. Walter Bishop, Jr., also a Blue Note session leader, is charming on piano, while Art Taylor's staccato drumming is counterpoint to Reece's fluid playing. Bassist Doug Watkins, Paul Chambers' cousin and a first-generation Jazz Messenger, rounds out the quartet.

The mono sound here is gorgeous -- pure and direct. Reece's trumpet pierces the air, and Bishop's piano is more up front and vivid than is usual for a Rudy Van Gelder recording. Classic Records' 200-gram vinyl is exceptionally quiet, so the music doesn't have to contend with groove noise. I noticed what I thought was a skip near the end of the first song of side two, "Yesterdays," but it ended up being a flaw in the master tape, probably a bad splice. Such things happen with magnetic tape that's nearing 50 years old.

This is among the handful of the best-sounding mono reissues I've heard so far, and the exceptional sonics aren't wasted on music of   questionable quality. If you've never heard of Dizzy Reece, this Soundin' Off is a stunning introduction.