Hip New Yorkers saw Dizzy Reece’s return to stage after a long absence last night, on the occasion of his birthday. The geography of last night was quite complex. Reece was born in Jamaica, but originally made his name in jazz in the UK, along with his fellow-countryman Joe Harriott. When he came to America, he signed with Blue Note and was the beneficiary of one the independent label’s few publicity parties. Last night, he was playing as part of the Harlem in the Himalayas series of concerts produced by the Jazz Museum in Harlem at the Rubin Museum of Tibetan art, in Chelsea.
The concert was quite an event, with several writers for the national jazz magazines in attendance. The audience was warm and supportive. Reece’s tone is still strong, sounding gorgeous on tunes like “‘Round Midnight.” He showed some frustration on bebop standards like “Now’s the Time,’ that his fingers couldn’t keep up with his ideas, but he was actually still playing at a high level, and the audience was just glad to hear him again. In fact, Reece’s playing was truly beautiful on ballads.
The Rubin produced an interesting show, with images of flying mystics projected on the wall behind him. The programming director also made a nice presentation to Reece at the end of the concert and cued pianist Mike Longo into “Happy Birthday.” With Reece’s Blue Note sessions now available on a Mosaic select set, hopefully more venues will book him, so fans won’t have wait so long for his next return.