Wade Legge (p), Lou Hackney, Dante Martucci, Doug Watkins (b), Al Jones, Ron Jefferson, Bill Bradley Jr. (d), Phil Sunkel (tp), JR. Monterose (ts), Bill Graham, Lars Gullin (bs), Joe Roland (vib), Joe Carroll (vcl)
Reference: FSRCD 894
Bar code: 8427328608947
Wade Legge (1934-1963) was still under 20 when he recorded his only trio sessions, but by then he had been Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist since September 1952. The recordings took place in Stockholm and Paris in February 1953, while Gillespie’s quintet was on tour in Europe. Like other young pianists then, he espoused the Bud Powell idiom, but, while paying considerable attention to his own playing, he also devoted time to composing. Here he is solidly backed by Dizzy’s regulars, bassist Lou Hackney and drummer Al Jones. That same February the trio also recorded with the great Swedish baritone Lars Gullin, and with Dizzy’s full ensemble minus the trumpeter, showcasing vocalist Joe Carroll and baritone sax Bill Graham. In these early sessions, young Legge showed great potential as a talented, promising and inventively lyrical player.
After his time with Gillespie, Legge settled in New York City to freelance. The remaining sides in this collection attest to Legge’s skill as a pianist while he developed his own voice, but also display his gifts as an imaginative composer in sessions with vibist Joe Roland and drummer Will Bradley Jr.
During his brief career he appeared on more than 50 recordings, showing himself an expert mixer of styles and moods. After retiring to Buffalo in 1959, he died in 1963 at the early age of 29.
"The Fresh Sound label is one of the major reissue record companies, also releasing new music on their Fresh Sound New Talent subsidiary. Fresh Sound, under the direction of the tireless Jordi Pujol, has repackaged and reissued a great deal of very valuable jazz from the 1950s and early 1960s. In addition to the major names, some of their most intriguing sets focus on obscure figures from jazz history whose music has been out-of-print for decades.
Wade Legge (1934-63) had a brief life and a briefer career but he was a fine bop-based pianist with his own chord voicings and sound. He is best-known for being Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist during 1952-54, touring Europe with the great trumpeter. Legge also made recordings with Pete Brown, Lenny Hambro, Jimmy Cleveland, Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Gigi Gryce, Jackie McLean and Shafi Hadi during 1954-57 and the Lionel Hampton big band in 1959. But for unknown reasons in 1959 he retired from actively playing music and, when he passed away in 1963, Wade Legge was just 29.
Legge’s Fresh Sound release has his only sessions as a leader (12 titles with bassist Lou Hackney and drummer Al Jones from Gillespie’s quintet), a song by the same trio with singer Joe Carroll and two of the four numbers that they recorded with baritonist Lars Gullin making the group a quartet. In addition, Legge is featured on four numbers with a quartet led by vibraphonist Joe Roland and on three songs with a quintet headed by drummer Bill Bradley Jr. that also includes trumpeter Phil Sunkel and tenor-saxophonist J.R. Monterose. The swinging music, dating from 1953-55, fits securely into the hard bop scene of the era and shows that Wade Legge was an unheralded talent."
Scott Yanow (July, 2016)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"He didn’t even live to see 30 years old, so it’s easy to not know too much about Wade Legge, who played piano with Dizzy Gillespie’s band in the early 50s, and recorded only when he had an off night during a European tour. He has an allegiance to Bud Powell, but his feel is a bit more inquisitive, teaming up with Diz’s team of Lou Hacney /b and Al Jones for some exciting originals such as “Play, Legge, Play” as well as going smooth and silky on”I Only Have Eyes For You” and ”Dear Old Stockholm.” Baritone sax legend Lars Gullin joins in for a couple fantastic pieces, a jump off of the “All The Things You Are” chords and a be bopping read of “The Squirrel.”
He’s also featured as a sideman for vibist Joe Roland in October of 1954 with a bouncy “Gene’s Stew” and is deep in the pocket during “”Bradleys’ Beans” with Bill Bradley’s group which also included JR Monterose/ts and Doug Watkins/b. If you’re a Bud Powell fan, you’ll find lots to like here."
George W. Harris (July 11, 2016)