Tag Archives: DING! DING!

“DING DING!” VIC DICKENSON RINGS THE BELL

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 Although the irreplaceable trombonist and singer Vic Dickenson recorded frequently for almost fifty years (his discography stretches from the sweet plaintive vocal on the Luis Russell HONEY, THAT REMINDS ME in 1931 to his last recorded performances in 1983), it never seems like too much.  Or even enough. 

I speak as someone who followed Vic around in New York City with a variety of tape recorders and once, a camera — between 1969 and 1981.  Occasionally he could offer a well-polished solo on BASIN STREET BLUES or IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD, but he always gave us surprises — whether he was being hilariously non-verbally seductive or slyly making tears come to my our with a ballad. 

Here — as a treat, because it is still probably an exceedingly rare record, is a gift from “danishjazz” on YouTube — Blanche Calloway and her Joy Boys, recorded in Chicago, 1934, on a song whose lyrics come right out and say it.  (Did Blanche decide to imitate Mae West at the end because Mae was an internationally-known figure, or had Mae gotten her tricks from black vaudeville first?  Research!)  And the vehement, swiftly-moving solo by Vic is a high point of this record:

 

But all this serves as prelude to announce a wonderful new CD by Vic with Jim Galloway, music recorded live in Toronto in 1973.  I bought my copy as soon as I heard about the disc: I needed to hear Vic play ZING WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART — and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Here’s the information from Jim’s website (http://www.jimgalloway.com):

Perhaps it belongs on television’s Antiques Roadshow. It’s a valuable slice of Canadian jazz history – a treasure trove in fact. Thirty-seven years ago saxophonist Jim Galloway played with American trombonist Vic Dickenson at a long-gone Toronto venue, Daniels. The show was recorded by Hogtown’s voice of jazz Ted O’Reilly, who stored the tapes – and now they’ve been transcribed. The result is Vic Dickenson Jim Galloway – Live In Toronto (Castor Records 11 001 http://www.jimgalloway.ca), which is pure delight, Galloway on his straight soprano for once (and occasionally baritone sax) matching wits with the king of growls, smears and all-around soft-toned, fluent wit. Backed by warhorses Ron Sorley (piano), Danny Mastri (bass) and George Reed (drums), the session is relaxed, yet swinging, from the first notes of Sonny Boy to the last of Just You, Just Me. It’s fabulous mainstream jazz, with journalist-drummer Paul Rimstead in for three of the dozen tracks. Happily Galloway sounds today much like he did then but everyone who heard Dickenson live misses his earthy playing with its immediately recognizable sound. The leaders both understand the blue notes and tasteful lyricism, and each gets his own stylish feature, Dickenson singing with his horn on Manha de Carnaval and Zing went the Strings of my Heart and Galloway, wry and charming as ever on baritone with Solitude. This great record shows how the wisdom of age trumps the pretentious audacity of much jazz youth. Geoff Chapman, WholeNote Magazine, December 2010

 To purchase a copy: Email buymusic@jimgalloway.ca.  Canada – $20 plus $3 shipping ($23 CAD).  Europe/International – $5 shipping ($25 CAD) (approx 18 euros).  

Sonny Boy /Basin Street Blues / Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart / Creole Love Call /Indiana /Just A Closer Walk With Thee / Manha De Carnaval / Struttin’ With Some Barbecue / Solitude / My Gal Sal / Tin Roof Blues / Just You, Just Me // 

VIC DICKENSON SINGS OF DESIRE

I never thought I would see this performance again.

I first saw it perhaps twenty years ago on a blurry videocassette copy sent to me by my generous friend John L. Fell, a film scholar and scholarly collector of the best jazz.  John and I shared a deep affection for the poetic improvisers — Billy Butterfield, Pee Wee Russell, Lester, and Vic Dickenson, among a hundred others.

This song was captured on November 26, 1983 at the Manassas Jazz Festival, in a program called ” Remembering the Roosevelt Grill,” in honor of the peerless small band that Vic and Bobby Hackett led there (with Cliff Leeman, Jack Lesberg, and Dave McKenna).  Hackett-disciple Larry Weiss played cornet, Dill Jones, piano; Steve Jordan, guitar; Bob Decker, bass, and Ernie Hackett, Bobby’s son, was on drums.

I don’t need to anatomize Vic’s instrumental style for anyone — he got more vocal sounds, deeply felt and human, out of that recalcitrant instrument than almost anyone.  (Ironically, Vic talked less than most musicians: it all came out of the horn.)  He loved to sing, and was earnest and whimsical at the same time.  I referred to this performance in a posting about Humphrey Lyttelton and Henri Chaix some time back, because it moved me so in memory.  It’s a great surprise to find it sitting quietly on YouTube.  Thank you, unknown benefactor!

Vic was seriously ill when he made the trip to Manassas and knew it.  Although he played intermittently after this festival, I think this is the last glimpse of him in action.  His feeling and humor come out in every note, as well as the joke of holding up two fingers.  Other men might do all they wanted to do in one hour; he would need double the time.

I saw Vic as often as I could between 1971 and 1981, but I wish he had been able to move and enlighten us just a little bit longer.  He died on November 16, 1984.  I miss his sound and his presence.  If only he could be with us still.


For those who want to know more about Vic’s life, the extraordinarily dedicated jazz writer / researcher Manfred Selchow’s book DING! DING!  A BIO-DISCOGRAPHICAL SCRAPBOOK ON VIC DICKENSON is irreplaceable.