Dean Reilly is something of a fixture on the San Francisco scene, a tasty and unobtrusive player who is likely to be found backing up some of the city's better jazz vocalists, such as Weslia Whitfield or Sherri Roberts. Beginning in the late '50s, Reilly was bassist with several groups that characterized a certain aspect of the San Francisco mainstream jazz sound, including the combos of Vince Guaraldi, Cal Tjader, and the underrated guitarist Eddie Duran. For a good chunk of the '60s he became the bassist with the Kingston Trio, during that decade one of the most busy touring bands in the world. Perhaps he was searching for some music that was even lighter than what he was already playing, but most likely he was just on the prowl for a steady paycheck. He learned music from his father, the pianist James Reilly, Sr., and began by playing trumpet. After a few years, he switched to the bass and eventually settled into a busy performing schedule that included classical music as well as the aforementioned jazz and folk, taking full advantage of the diversity of the Bay Area scene as well as the fact that many performing artists travel out there to play and pick up rhythm sections upon arriving. He has played off and on as a member of the California Symphony as well as with artists such as folksinger Leon Bib, the gospelish Gateway Singers, jazz piano genius Earl Hines, the jazz vocal duo of Jackie and Roy, French crooner Maurice Chevalier, supreme vocalists Carmen McRae and Anita O'Day, jazz trumpeter Art Farmer, and saxophonist Stan Getz, and even a fill-in date with pianist and composer Thelonious Monk, bound to push the limits of knowledge for any bassist. When bassist "Buck" Wheat vamoosed from the Kingston Trio in 1961, Reilly was the replacement and remained with the group until its dissolution in 1967, playing on all the group's records following the Something Special album. "It's a good job" Reilly said of the engagement in an interview. "To play enjoyable music, make good money and have absolutely no pressures is a rare thing, Jones," Reilly continued, concluding with a bit of beatnik slang that is most likely quite a bit hipper than any of the music the group itself played. While the Kingston Trio was inexplicably often described by journalists as having a "hep sound" during the wimpy group's tenure, listeners wanting to hear Reilly in a more swinging and creative setting will probably want to check out the overlapping playing relationship between Guaraldi and Duran, longtime associates on the San Francisco music scene who found that Reilly fit perfectly into their various groups. Particularly recommended is the Guaraldi trio album entitled A Flower Is a Lonesome Thing, first released in 1957. A bit less than half a century later, Reilly was regarded as an elder statesman of the San Francisco scene, working in the Sherri Roberts band alongside pianist Alan Steger, drummer Jim Zimmerman and saxophonist Harvey Robb. He also plays regularly with Whitfield, with whom he has recorded three compact discs.
Share this page