Some artists are too big to fit into one designated category or title: drummer George Wettling is one of them, even though his name is left out of many histories of the music, and when he is mentioned, it is as a “Dixieland” musician or one of “Eddie Condon’s barefoot mob,” both designations either condescending or arcane at this remove. He was one of those players whose energies went to the band, so I think he was often taken for granted — but replace Wettling in any situation with a lesser drummer, and the change is immediately not only heard but felt. I proudly say that I was listening to Wettling on records in my childhood, and continue to do so with pleasure. Consider this one. I know it’s difficult to put Jack Teagarden, Coleman Hawkins, and Joe Thomas to one side, but listen to Wettling’s drumming: intuitive, thoughtful, joyous, propulsive without being narcissistic:
Here is a post I created ten years ago, with more evidence of Wettling’s flexible, uplifting playing. And here‘s another — with more video and audio. Wettling was quite the painter — a student and disciple of Stuart Davis — as explained here, beautifully, by Hank O’Neal, in 2017.
But the occasion for this post is something new and wonderful — a living lesson in what Wettling DID, offered to us by the wonderful musician (and dear friend) Kevin Dorn, whose bright light is always visible in the night sky:
I had the immense good fortune of hearing Kevin swing out last night with a stellar band led by Evan Arntzen at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (Evan, Kevin, Jon-Erik Kellso, Mara Kaye, Harvey Tibbs, Rossano Sportiello, Adam Brisbin, Tal Ronen) and in the best Wettling tradition, he sounded like himself without having to try hard to do so.
May your happiness increase!