Walt Dickerson ‘Walt Dickerson Quartet. The complete New Jazz recordings’ 2CD (Solar) 5/5

Walt Dickerson QuartetAmong vibraphonists, Walt Dickerson has received precious little media attention and that is a pity for he is one of the unrecognised jazz musicians of the 1960s and one who was equally at ease with bop and avant garde styles and this before Bobby Hutcherson came onto the scene as a leader. The double CD anthology brings together all three albums recorded for the New Jazz label at the beginning of the 1960s and it is an exemplary re-issue with beautiful sleeve packaging including original covers, original sleeve notes and photos of the musicians involved at various sessions. It was the title track to his debut album ‘ A sense of direction’ from 1961 that first attracted a new wave of interest in the vibes player during the 1990s when a UK jazz-dance compilation on the BGP label via ACE, compiled by Russ Dewbury, surfaced. Walt Dickerson surrounded himself with highly individual musicians and among them were drummer Andrew Cyrille, who would later accompany Cecil Taylor, bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, who would regularly perform with Monk, and Blue Note session bassist George Tucker. It was this combination of the intellectual and emotional that made Walt Dickerson’s music so inspiring and always with an undercurrent that veered towards somewhat darker and more obscure hues. Dickerson’s final album for New Jazz was arguably his strongest and certainly his most reflective of all with Blue Note artist Andrew Hill his new pianist. The opener and title track was a gargantuan seventeen and a half minutes long and an incredibly atmospheric piece that was intended as a tribute to the vibist’s wife, Elisabeth. It is a composition that has several stages to it and is at once intricate and absorbing in equal measure. By contrast side two is made up of two standards, ‘How deep is the ocean’ and ‘God bless the child’, the former of which develops into a blues-inflected shuffler of a number. If Walt Dickerson was a prolific recorder of music between 1961 and 1965, then during the following decade he took a ten year break from music, and from 1975 onwards worked with both Andrew Hill and Sun Ra as a sideman and for Danish label Steeplechase as a leader. He passed away in 2008 aged eighty. Tim Stenhouse