Monthly Archives: March 2013

An Appreciation of Vic Dickenson

An Appreciation of Vic Dickenson

By Andrew Sordoni

For more than 50 years jazz music has intrigued and nourished my whole self without ever demanding more than  attention. At various times my focus fluctuated from meager to intense but at no time was jazz away from my need to listen, to know and to feel.

As a producer, enabler and manager of events and a respected recording company, Chiaroscuro, I have been privileged to know and work with some of the greatest performers of the music. To my regret there were others I could have known but did not, Vic Dickenson was one of those.

Through listening and reading I know that Vic was important in many ways: a master of the trombone, a fluent and humorous improviser, an unrecognized composer and one of the best ensemble players ever. These conclusions are proved by the recordings that feature Vic on Chiaroscuro including 4 with Bobby Hackett, Live at the Roosevelt Grill; Eddie Condon In Japan; Buck Clayton Jam Session #2 and Teddy Wilson and His All Stars along with a Ralph Sutton – Vic Dickenson recording we acquired when we purchased CHAZZ JAZZ in the late 1980’s.

Although I had no direct involvement in recording these examples my “fingerprints” are on them administratively and with great respect for their worth. To cite the versatility of Vic Dickenson we offer these very different examples:

CONSTANTLY – written, played and sung by Vic, this tune was recorded many times especially by Bobby Hackett and The World’s Greatest Jazz Band. To fully appreciate the charm of the composition and its words (which make it a song) we are including a true transcription.

CONSTANTLY

 

CONSTANTLY

Got you on my mind Constantly

Can’t you find some time just for me

Every day when I awake I always think of you

Night time when I go to bed I go there feeling blue

I used to think about you, casually

Now I know that you’re meant for me

I’ll only hope and pray that all my dreams come true

Then I could be with you Constantly

 

LOVER COME BACK TO ME was written by Sigmund Romberg and is a favorite of jazz musicians. In this version Vic states the melody and verse then blows 4 choruses of musical joy.

 

JUNE NIGHT is a favorite of Teddy Wilson who led the band and Bob Wilber who wrote the arrangement. Vic is perfect in the ensemble and takes one improvised chorus.

 

Music on the High C’s

By Tom Carten

 

Just as WVIA-FM now has three channels for your news and information needs, so did Spike Jones with his City Slickers; the Band that Plays for Fun; and the little known Other Orchestra.  As with many movies which are critically acclaimed but box-office disasters, Spike’s attempt to dabble in fine pop music with a little jazz touch just didn’t make it with the public.  If potential audience members wanted jazz, they “went uptown” to the famous clubs, not to a black-tie and well-behaved group with a cornball reputation.  He ended up paying the Other Orchestra’s costs out of his own pocket.

 

So it was with Jan Garber: square, down home, “The Idol of the Airwaves” (or “Airlanes”).  The man who could make Lawrence Welk sound like Bill Haley and the Comets.  So what did this former classical violinist do with his highly successful dance band?  During WW2, he turned it into a swinging jazz band.  That’s right, Jan Garber right up there with the King of Swing himself.  Problem was, Benny Goodman knew what he was doing and Jan made a big mistake, which he immediately corrected by going back to where his fans (and the money) were.

 

You don’t learn how to play jazz; you live it and the notes come out of your fingers into the instrument of your choice.  If you are running a dance band, you can’t get an arranger to work up some songs that will change you into the swinging group of your dreams.  Anyone can play the notes, but they can’t play the spirit.  I once tried “September Song” as Dave Brubeck recorded it and was happy for only one reason:  nobody heard me.  I hit the right notes, but not the essence of jazz.

 

Or, if I may quote these esteemed gentlemen:

“One thing I like about jazz, kid, is that I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?”

(Credited to  Bix Beiderbecke)

“That’s the thing about jazz: it’s free flowing, it comes from your soul.”

(Credited to Billy Crystal)

 

 

[Tom Carten is a broadcaster who formerly worked at WJZZ-FM in Fairfield CT, where Dave Brubeck was the music director.]