Vic Dickenson spent most of 1945-47 in California and recorded prolifically with a wide variety of bands — appearing memorably alongside Louis, Hawkins, Leo Watson — as well as playing on JUBILEE broadcasts. And he had the opportunity to record as a leader for I think the first time, for the rather under-publicized SUPREME label, in late 1947. (The impending record ban may have made this even more of an opportunity.) From what I saw of Vic in person, later in life, he was perfectly happy to be a sideman, although he was asked to lead in the recording studio often in the last three decades of his life.
I stumbled across this YouTube posting of one of the SUPREME sides and noted with dismay that only 33 people had viewed it, the other side had 17 views. This post is my small effort to raise those numbers for the greater glory of Vic.
The band is not what some might expect from Vic — much more 1947 bop than loose improvising — but he stands out beautifully among the more “modern” Californians: Jack Trainor, trumpet; Jewell Grant, alto saxophone; J.D. King, tenor saxophone; Skip Johnson, piano, arranger; Billy Hadnott, string bass; Chico Hamilton, drums. Yes, ST. LOUIS BLUES begins with Vic playing Louis’ WEST END BLUES cadenza, slightly truncated (I heard him play it all, gorgeously, a number of times in performance) and his later solo is still rooted in his own version of 1928 Louis. And his winning vocal!
and a song Vic made his own many times, YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU. Here, much of the record is given over to the band (Vic was never one to demand the spotlight) and they have their own take on the Eddie Heywood arrangement Vic had recorded a year earlier:
To me, Vic is a hero of sound among heroes, someone consistently underrated — but not by people like Roswell Rudd, who was most eloquent in his praise:
Vic Dickenson. You know it right away from the sound. Every note that he plays. He’s got so much personality. This is something you find in the older players, that every note they play is imbued with their own character. I guess it breaks down to where nowadays it’s hard to separate people by the particular personality that they have in their sound. But back in the days when there were fewer people doing this, there was more identifiable individuality. But now so many more people are doing this that it becomes harder and harder to identify the individuals. But they’re still there! I’m telling you. And especially on this instrument, which is all about imbuing the sound with your own personality so that you can be identified just from the sound of a few notes that you play. . . . You know who he is right away. I don’t know whether it’s because I was there or I grew up on it. But these sounds are so distinctive, these voices. Vic Dickenson liberated the trombone into linear improvisation the same way Jack Teagarden did, and this was a heroic thing.
from a 2001 “Blindfold Test” conducted for Down Beat by Ted Panken, reprinted from Ted’s blog, TODAY IS THE QUESTION.
Listen to Vic, I say. And not just these sides.
May your happiness increase!