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Waltzin' With Flo

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Album Review

Alan Dawson was a highly respected jazz drummer and educator; in spite of his lengthy discography, this 1992 studio session proved to be his only date as a leader, though it wasn't released until 2002, some six years after his death. Not only is Dawson's matchless drumming a key component of this CD, he records several of his compositions and arrangements, and he also plays vibes on two tracks. The core band includes trumpeter and flugelhornist Bill Mobley, pianist James Williams (with Donald Brown subbing on four songs), and bassist Ray Drummond, though it isn't clear which tenor saxophonist — Billy Pierce or Andy McGhee — is present when there is but one, presumably it is Pierce. Tony Reedus takes over the drums when Dawson moves to the vibes. Dawson's sauntering "Penta Blues" and "Two Stepped" (his reworking of the standard "You Stepped Out of a Dream") feature both tenor saxophonists. "Waltz for Flo" is a tasty bossa nova dedicated to the leader's wife. James Williams' smoking vehicle, "1993 A.D.," features an extended drum solo by the leader. Donald Brown's "Havana Days" is driven by Dawson's crisp percussion, with potent solos by Mobley (on trumpet) and Pierce. Explosive takes of "Airegin" and "Joshua" are also a treat. Dawson switches to vibes for a lush treatment of "Little Man, You've Had a Busy Day," while his brilliant technique in a Latin-flavored treatment of "Old Devil Moon" makes one wish he had recorded more often on the instrument. Alan Dawson's sole recording as a leader should be considered essential.


Born: 14 July 1929 in Marietta, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

A musician's musician if ever there was one, drummer Alan Dawson was one of those solid, highly professional mainstream jazz musicians who seemingly played with everyone, yet never attained widespread notoriety among the jazz public at large. In the early '50s, Dawson freelanced around Boston and worked steadily with the band of drummer Sabby Lewis. He toured with Lionel Hampton in 1953, then returned to Lewis' group, with which he remained from 1953 to 1956. Around 1954, the father of young drummer...
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