VIC DICKENSON in LIFE

Some jazz musicians are garrulous, bubbly; Vic Dickenson barely spoke, and when he did address a comment to someone else on the stand, it was hard even for a practiced eavesdropper to catch what he was saying.  Often his words were punctuated by a laugh that would be difficult to describe. 

When Vic was photographed, because of the trombone’s intrusive size and shape, he often looked like a man at the mercy of his instrument, his brow furrowed.  Photographs also captured him looking angry — which was misleading, for he seemed the least contentious of men.

Here’s an uncredited photo study of Vic from LIFE magazine, presumably from the Fifties (I date it by his hairline).  It captures his seriousness, as well as some delightful reflections in the trombone’s bell, although it can’t summon up his sense of humor, his wonderful sound and sounds. 

For that, thankfully, we have the recordings he made over nearly half a century.

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8 responses to “VIC DICKENSON in LIFE

  1. Wow, what a picture! He’s one of my ‘bone heroes – thanks for the post, and all the wonderful videos in the other posts (I’m a trombone player, and there’s lots of inspiration in those videos).

    Best,
    Randy

  2. I was lucky enough to see Vic, Benny Morton, and Dicky Wells at close range in New York City in the Seventies and Eighties — what sounds! Now we have Dan Barrett, Harvey Tibbs, Bob Havens, Jim Fryer, Bill Allred, John Allred, and a dozen others to carry on. Happy to have you as a reader, Randy — cheers, Michael Steinman

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  4. John C Graham

    My favourite trombone player…by a New York City block. Thanks for the great picture of a special musician. Think I’ll just reach over and put “Gentleman of the Trombone” on now….cheers!

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  6. My favorite Vic Dickenson solos are his muted solo in “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” where his trombone almost sounds like a human voice, and his Eb blues chorus in the CBS production from the late 50’s with Billie Holiday and an all-star band “Fine and Mellow” – great range, control, and use of trills, subtle growls and smears. He is perhaps at his best in that video recording.

  7. And many more! Do you know his solo on SOCIETY BLUES from the Sidney Bechet concert in Brussels (1958 — with Buck Clayton in the front line) and his solo on BOTTOM BLUES from the 1944 Albert Ammons Commodore date? Or with Louis on SUGAR in 1946? I could go on! Happy to meet a fellow Dickensonian!

  8. Adam Schachter

    Hi Michael,
    I’m an antiquarian bookseller in Houston, Texas. I recently acquired an archive of Vic’s and thought you would like to know that he kept a recording you made for him, that you mailed him in February of 1975. Your note to him reads, ““Dear Vic, This contains everything that I taped in the four days at Brew’s”

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