Dick Cathcart: Pete Kelly's Blues - His 25 Finest 1950 -1959
On receiving this Dick Cathcart CD, I was aware that I knew little about him: Reading the fine notes, written by Digby Fairweather, revealed I was not alone in my ignorance. Digby says of him; "whose career, for many European listeners, is still largely unrecognised, or even completely unknown" There is little mention of Dick Cathcart in jazz encyclopedias and appraisals.
By 1962, Dick Cathcart had become a (major) part of the Lawrence Welk TV show, which was heard coast to coast in the US and had great popularity, but was still unheard 'this side of the pond'.
Listening to the music on this CD, you soon understand why Digby was so generous in his praise of Dick Cathcart. Technically, he is utterly brilliant: the sort of brilliance you only get from a great musician (and not just a jazz musician). His control, precision, tone and phrasing are impeccable. Whilst Cathcart was with the Harry James Orchestra, he was one of the few players allowed to play solo trumpet (aside from James, himself) - quite an honour!
In trying to assess just how good he was and where he should stand in some 'greatness hierarchy', he suffers from not having an instantly recognisable sound (or maybe that's just me). However, if sheer technical brilliance was a measure, he would be right up there. Not that he was 'flashy': his playing is disciplined, but still capable of being hot and, above all, always just quite simply astonishingly good. It is ironic that several well-respected jazz trumpeters did not even read music (Ruby Braff and Harry Edison spring to mind) but they are both much-admired players. Is it possible that being classically brilliant is actually a disadvantage where originality is being judged?
To the music on the CD: there is a nucleus of musicians appearing throughout, such as Matty Matlock, Moe Schneider, Eddie Miller, Ray Sherman, George Van Eps and Nick Fatool, and the resultant telepathic understanding is obvious. These musicians are present on most or all of the ‘Big Seven' tracks and how good they are. However, arguably as good or better are the four tracks from the Warner Brothers album 'Bix MCMLIX': the presence of the wonderful Paul Smith is a bonus.
The whole of this CD is a gem. Great credit to Ray Crick of Retrospective for bringing this neglected musician back into our consciousness. Highly, highly recommended! Barry Clare, Just Jazz