This is a fascinating compilation of music that had long been unavailable. Originally, the first three tracks featuring pianist Dick Wellstood (in a quintet that included two key members of Fats Waller & His Rhythm, trumpeter Herman Autrey and clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Gene Sedric, along with bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Zutty Singleton) appeared on the LP Uptown and Lowdown, along with four tracks from one of the few dates led by pianist Cliff Jackson. The added bonus here consists of eight songs that Wellstood recorded for a 10" disc with Jelly Roll Morton's former drummer, Tommy Benford. The highlight of the CD is easily the opening track, a spirited rendition of "Yacht Club Swing" in which the reunion of Sedric and Autry (who had not played together for 18 years) proves to be quite rewarding. Wellstood's swinging piano is the perfect stimulus for the two veterans. Although the two Wellstood originals that follow can't quite compare to one of Waller's old theme songs, they are both very enjoyable. With Benford sticking to brushes in the background, Wellstood explores works by early greats including James P. Johnson ("Old Fashioned Love" and "Mule Walk"), Art Tatum (the rarely performed piece "The Shout"), and Waller ("Alligator Crawl" and "Oh Baby, Watcha Doing to Me"), as well as his own "Closed Mouth Blues." While none of Wellstood's interpretations overshadow the original recordings, the pianist distinctly puts his own touch on each of them. Cliff Jackson's brief set falls more into a Dixieland vein, as he leads a sextet that includes trumpeter Ed Allen, clarinetist Rudy Powell, and banjo player Elmer Snowden. While this music is entertaining, it pales somewhat when placed alongside the more swinging tracks by Wellstood. This CD is heartily recommended to fans of stride, swing, and traditional jazz.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden