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Monday, October 25, 2004

Jamaica Swing book excerpt #1

"There's a great trumpeter over in England: a guy who's got soul and originality and, above all, who's not afraid to blow with fire."

- Miles Davis

Coming from one who was himself universally acknowledged as one of the most important musicians of the 20th Century, Miles Davis' endorsement of Jamaican trumpeter Dizzy Reece can hardly be faint praise.

Indeed, the Kingston native is widely celebrated in his own right and not just for his brilliance on the trumpet. He has additionally functioned as a journalist, prose writer, (having written abstractions, poems, short stories, and screenplays) and even as a filmmaker and painter. His educational publications on the jazz idiom include Contemporary Jazz Drum Suite (1966), Basic Jazz Bass Rhythm And Blues; Swinging the Scales and other method books. (1997); Encyclopedia of Black Brass/Black Reeds- 1860-1999. His paintings have been exhibited with his music. Reece's overriding philosophy is "without art civilisation becomes a spiritually bankrupt wasteland ."

Now Mosaic Records, a specialist in the music re-issue and compilation field, is celebrating the legendary musician further with the release of his recordings on the equally renowned Blue Note label(the recording home of current jazz-pop star Norah Jones). Entiltled simply Mosaic Select: Dizzy Reece, the disc aggregates the hornman's association with the label dating back to the late 1950s with Blues in Trinity . This was followed by Star Bright (Featuring another great Jamaican musician, Wynton Kelly, on piano) and Soundin' Off. Two more stellar sessions followed in 1960, but these were not released until almost 40 years later (1999) as Comin' On..

The son of a silent films pianist, Reece made his professional debut at age 14, after switching to the trumpet from the baritone sax. Since then, he has shared the stage and the recording studio with some of the greatest names in the jazz pantheon including Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke, Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Red Garland, Machito, and Billy Taylor.

He made his debut as a leader in 1953 as leader with the recording, A New Star. A prolific composer, arranger-orchestrator, Reece is truly respected as one of the very few great trumpet players in the world today, says Mike Longo, who previously played with the maestro. "His recordings show the mastery of the instrument as it truly communicates the unique message of the trumpet, profiling a musical language that has been in transition since jazz trumpet playing had its inception."

Like a number of creative Jamaicans of his time, Reece moved to London in 1948 and that city remained his base of operations for more than a decade, though he made frequent trips across the continent and North Africa. For a while he had his own ten-piece band, which played the arrangements of his namesake, be-bop founding father, Dizzy Gillespie.

Of his UK experience Reece states, "There are quite a few good musicians over there and many of them American . . . Kenny Clarke, Don Byas, Bud Powell . . . I always had trouble with the rhythm sections over there, though. Rhythm sections are supposed to accompany and I don't think they were always aware of that."

The Jamaican master has been a host and guest on many radio programs in the U S and internationally. His compositions include dramatic film and theatre music to bedtime music. In the1950s, Reece appeared on three soundtracks for British films. In 958 his improvised film score for the MGM movie Nowhere To Go (George Nader- Maggie Smith) was an innovative performance for modern jazz in films in England. Since its release in 1958 the film has been continuously shown internationally with its performance as a "Hollywood Classic" on TNT in 1993.

At home, Dizzy Reece was the 1999/2000 recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Excellence and performed on the Prime Minister's Independence Gala in that year. He has also been featured artist at the Ocho Rios Jamaica jazz festival and is an inductee to the Jamaica Jazz Hall of Fame. Subsequently, he performed a well-received benefit concert for the National AIDS Committee.

Equipped with a virtuoso technique, he is not timid about making complete use of that either, but his virtuosity is never employed for its own sake, only as a means to express the full gamut of his emotions, or in his own words, "the emotional must never outweigh the cerebral. They must strike that sacred balance that is contested in art."

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