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Dick Wetmore RIP


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#1 JPF

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 01:01 AM

From the Boston Globe:



Dick Wetmore, 79; was adventurous player of jazz violin

By Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff | January 15, 2007

A pioneer of jazz violin, Dick Wetmore took his instrument to places it had rarely ventured and took his audience along for the ride.

"What he could do with that violin would blow you away. He would pluck it and get sounds out of the violin that people didn't know existed," said Mary Lu Wetmore, who is married to Mr. Wetmore's nephew. "I've seen him play many times. He used to describe it as he doesn't even know what he's playing -- he just plays by feel and from the heart. . . . You were in awe of him when you listened to him play."

In a performing career that began when he was in elementary school, Mr. Wetmore played clubs in Boston and New York City in the 1950s and '60s with some of the greatest names in jazz. A multi-instrumentalist, he was as at home with horns as he was with strings, and also composed.

Mr. Wetmore, who lived and performed on Cape Cod for two decades beginning in the mid-1970s, died Jan. 4 in St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital in Indiana. He was 79 and had been suffering from heart ailments and emphysema, which prompted him to move recently to Kokomo , Ind., close to his wife's family.

Jack Chambers, a University of Toronto professor who writes about jazz, called Mr. Wetmore "a jazz chameleon with professional skills on both trumpet and violin, and equally at home playing Dixieland or bebop or cool jazz." The mid-1950s album "Wetmore Plays Zieff," Chambers wrote, is "beautifully crafted, and it stands as one of the most obscure great records in modern jazz."

Richard Byron Wetmore was born in Glens Falls, N.Y., into a musical family. His mother played banjo, cornet, and piano, and his sister played piano and organ. His sister gave him his first violin, a metal contraption she bought at Woolworth's, when he was 6.

By 10 he had composed and performed a piece for violin and piano that he dedicated to his father. His family moved to Newton Center and he left high school to serve in the Army.

Because violins weren't needed in the military bands, Mr. Wetmore taught himself to play cornet. He later said that he learned to improvise while playing in an Army band.

"He tells this great story about a trombonist called Moe Schneider who would stand behind him and kick him until he improvised," said Mr. Wetmore's great-nephew Jamey Wetmore of Tempe, Ariz. "Basically the pain would become so intense that he would start improvising without thinking about it."

Back in Boston, he got his high school diploma, and studied violin and composition at Boston University and the New England Conservatory of Music.

During the 1950s and '60s, he played Boston clubs such as the Hi-Hat, Pioneer Club, and the Savoy, and also at venues in New York City, backing up musicians including Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughan, according to Jamey Wetmore, who compiled information about Mr. Wetmore's career.

Mr. Wetmore expanded his range of instruments during those years, sometimes out of necessity.

"He picked up numerous other instruments," his great-nephew said. "As he put it, there was so much alcohol and drugs around that it wasn't uncommon for your bass player to pass out during a set."

Not immune to the substance abuse that was common among musicians on the road and playing clubs, Mr. Wetmore struggled with alcohol until "he sobered up in 1972," Jamey Wetmore said. "He used to say the only reason he lived so long was because he was afraid of needles."

More than 15 years ago Mr. Wetmore was at a family Thanksgiving gathering and met the mother of his nephew's wife.

"We just sort of clicked," said Marge Wetmore, who lived in the Midwest at the time.

"We had a telephone romance because we talked on the phone every day. And then we decided we could afford that," she said, laughing, "so he proposed over the phone."

They married in 1993 and she moved to join him on Cape Cod for a few years before they relocated to Naples, Fla., where some of his jazz colleagues from the 1950s were living -- along with his former audiences from up north.

"He carried the amplifier and I carried his violin," his wife said. "So I was what was known as a roadie, and I liked that."

Emphysema curtailed his horn playing, but Mr. Wetmore continued to perform on violin into his 70s, sometimes as often as seven times a week.

"Regardless of what kind of music was playing, he had a very important stage presence," Jamey Wetmore said. "He enjoyed chatting with the crowd and interacting with the crowd, and presenting the music in a way that I don't think we get any more. . . . A lot of people would come up to him late in life and say, 'You brought something to me that I haven't seen or heard in 50 years."

A memorial service will be held on Cape Cod in the summer.

Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

#2 Chas

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:03 AM

The mid-1950s album "Wetmore Plays Zieff," Chambers wrote, is "beautifully crafted, and it stands as one of the most obscure great records in modern jazz."

This was Wetmore's first ( and only ? ) date as a leader . Recorded for Bethlehem , Wetmore's quartet included : Ray Santisi , Bill Nordstrom and Jimmy Zitano . According to Jack Chambers , this was not the original quartet that had gigged around Boston playing Bob Zieff material . Wetmore's original quartet had Jimmy Woode instead of Bill Nordstrom and Dick Twardzik in place of Ray Santisi . Woode left to join Duke's band and Twardzik left town because he was 'feeling the heat' . The eight Zieff compositions on the Bethlehem were, with one exception , later brought by Dick Twardzik to Chet Baker's quartet , and recorded for Barclay .
Wetmore's album was reissued on vinyl in Japan , but I don't think it has seen reissue on CD .

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#3 brownie

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:12 AM

Sad to hear of Wetmore's passing!

He was really good! Too bad that practicaly none of the records he made are available.
The ten-incher he made for Bethlehem is a rather rare item! Never heard it. It was briefly reissued in Japan.
But I heard and still enjoy Vinnie Burke's 'String Jazz Quartet' on ABC-Paramount where Wetmore was featured! Did it ever make it to CD?
The Burke album has Wetmore on violin, Calo Scott on cello, Kenny Burrell on guitar (also Bobby Grillo and Paul Palmieri on guitars) and drummer Jimmy Campbell playing brushes on the Manhattan telephone directory!

#4 Chas

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:25 AM

But I heard and still enjoy Vinnie Burke's 'String Jazz Quartet' on ABC-Paramount where Wetmore was featured! Did it ever make it to CD?

Don't think so .
Guy , I'm surprised you haven't posted the cover in the sexiest covers thread :P

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#5 Pete B

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 09:28 AM

The Bethlehem 10" lp is a gem. I once asked Bob Zieff if he would share the head-chart for "Sad Walk", which a friend of mine had transcribed. He told me all the harmony was "through-written" and there was no chart for it. I guess you would describe it as a sort of chamber music approach to jazz writing. Very beautiful and challenging music.

I have an extra copy of the Japanese reissue, mint except for 1 small unfortunate scratch, if anybody wants to buy it or trade for it send me a pm. It's a tough title to find.

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#6 brownie

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 10:12 AM


But I heard and still enjoy Vinnie Burke's 'String Jazz Quartet' on ABC-Paramount where Wetmore was featured! Did it ever make it to CD?

Don't think so .
Guy , I'm surprised you haven't posted the cover in the sexiest covers thread :P


Thought that the googled images did not render justice to the quality of the original cover!
Stroboscope effect by the late French photographer Fernand Fonssagrives. Cover design by Fran Scott.
Fran Scott (who was then married to Tony Scott) designed some of the best jazz album covers. Her work for ABC-Paramount was awesome!



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