This is the definitive Dickie Wells collection, presenting three very distinct periods in his remarkable career. As an appetizer for five sessions led by this fine trombonist, listeners get to hear his very first recordings, with Springfield, OH, native Lloyd Scott's orchestra in 1927 and Lloyd's brother Cecil Scott's Bright Boys -- featuring trumpeters Frankie Newton and Bill Coleman -- in 1929. This shot of seven outstanding old-fashioned numbers is a perfect example of great music from the late '20s, all but forgotten by the public today but available to dedicated early jazz addicts as part of the Classics Chronological Series. Dickie Wells spent the first half of the 1930s working in bands led by Elmer Snowden, Benny Carter, Chick Webb, and Fletcher Henderson. He joined Teddy Hill's band in 1934 and it was with Hill that Wells traveled to Paris during the summer of 1937. At the heart of this collection lie 12 marvelous recordings waxed during that tour, with the great Django Reinhardt and a few of his French friends sitting in with Wells (billed here as "Dicky") and a small team of seasoned North American swing musicians. Bill Coleman made himself at home, scat singing with gutsy nonchalance on "Hangin' Around Boudon." Additional trumpeters were Bill Dillard and Shad Collins, with further U.S. input from alto saxophonist Howard Johnson, pianist Sam Allen, bassist Richard Fullbright, and ace drummer Bill Beason. Dickie Wells was an accomplished trombonist, capable of expressing a full range of human emotions using growls, smears, glissandi, and honest, straight-up melodic candor. "Oh, Lady Be Good" and "Dicky Wells Blues" feature the trombone backed by a rhythm trio, highlighting his musical personality in living color. A veritable chasm lies between these 1937 recordings and the next session, recorded in December 1943 for Bob Thiele's Signature label. By this time, Wells had come through the fire of the Count Basie Orchestra, bringing with him several key players from that formidable swing machine. Most importantly, listeners get to hear Lester Young only months before his ill-fated encounter with the U.S. Army. Prez, Dickie, and Bill Coleman are each in fine form, jamming hard with solid support from a fine rhythm section in pianist Ellis Larkins, guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Al Hall, and master drummer Jo Jones. Because of Wells' nominal leadership and the fact that it was originally issued by a small independent label, this session is less well-known than Young's work with Basie and his Aladdin and Verve recordings. It is essential listening for all Lester Young fans, and should be digested along with Young's remarkable Keynote Quartet session that took place one week later.
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