Expert’s Tease

Sometimes a writer can get hung up on a musician, writing about him frequently and becoming the go-to guy for insights. Stanley Dance could never get enough Ellington. You’d be remiss in not consulting Gary Giddins on Bing Crosby. And Ashley Kahn, author of this month’s cover story, is quickly becoming the person you talk to about all things Coltrane.

And I, my friends, can yap to you all about Dizzy Reece.

Who?

OK, so I haven’t chosen someone about whom I can scribe a tome, but I swear: If you buy me a nice vodka (top shelf only; I can reach the bottom one all by myself), I’ll chat you up and down about Mr. Reece. The conversation might last only as long as the drink, but in those five minutes I will inform you to no end about what I know about one of jazz’s best and most underappreciated trumpeters.

It’s not that Reece doesn’t deserve a full biography or hours and hours of intelligent chat. It’s just that Dizzy is still a mystery to me.

We’ve meet in person twice, and talked on the phone a few more times. I’ve interviewed some of Reece’s friends and associates, listened closely to his music and written an article.

And I’m still piecing together Reece’s tale.

Naturally, I hope my Overdue Ovation on Reece will point some rays toward this trumpeter, who’s been so long relegated to the shadows, but my article doesn’t give the complete picture on this man. Dizzy is deep—and I’ve merely dipped.

Alice Coltrane is another musician whose personality is mysterious to those of us on the outside. It’s been tough to get Mrs. John Coltrane to give interviews, and it’s been by choice that Alice has stayed out of the spotlight, concentrating on her inner life rather than her life on stage. But with the new album Translinear Light, and the encouragement of her son Ravi, Alice is being introduced to new fans—and being reintroduced to generations who may have forgotten her.

Kahn built up trust with the Coltrane family when he wrote A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album, and he’s currently writing a book about the history of Impulse—the label that Trane built. Because of the Coltranes’ faith in Kahn, he was able to be a fly on the wall at one of the recording sessions for Translinear Light and tell Alice’s story from the inside.

If someone would give Dizzy Reece another shot to record, I’d be happy to sit in and document the session. Then I’d be able to hit you up for a second drink and tell you what else I’ve learned about him.

Originally published in October 2004

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