Dick Wellstood was one of the foremost stride piano players, and his premature death in 1987 deprived the jazz world of a major talent. This CD reissues the complete contents of the 1970-1971 sessions that made up the original LP, adding four new tracks from a previously unreleased 1975 studio date. There's plenty of great music for a stride fan to devour: Fats Waller's "Viper's Drag" and "Squeeze Me," James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout" (a mandatory number for stride players), plus interpretations of ragtime (Scott Joplin's "Fig Leaf"), W.C. Handy's "Atlanta Blues," and the playful novelty piano number "Poor Buttermilk" by Zez Confrey. Wellstood also delights in rearranging a theme by Rachmaninoff into his "Russian Rag," while his "South Amboy Highball" is a boogie-woogie piece that suggests a train underway. The sound is a little distorted on the 1975 session, due to the dynamic range of these recordings exceeding the capabilities of a CD. In addition to a loping "On the Sunny Side of the Street," a virtuoso performance of "Body and Soul," and a brilliantly conceived medley of classic Duke Ellington compositions, there's one odd track. Although "Superstar" is credited to Wellstood, it is actually a very bluesy, often sidesplitting interpretation of the schmaltz-filled hit recorded by the Carpenters. Is there such a thing as a mediocre Dick Wellstood release? Don't bet on it!
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden