In the early 1960s, vibraphonist Walt Dickerson (b. 1931) seemed to burst upon the jazz scene, recording a steady series of rewarding projects for Prestige. Obscurity followed for many years before he made a comeback.
Born in Philadelphia, Dickerson graduated from Morgan Street College in 1953 and served two years in the Army. After his discharge, he moved to California where he played locally. After moving to New York in 1960, he was discovered and during the next few years recorded four albums for the New Jazz label.
This Is Walt Dickerson! has the vibraphonist heading a quartet that includes drummer Andrew Cyrille and performing six of his moody and adventurous originals. Already pushing himself beyond the dominant Milt Jackson influence that was felt by most vibists at the time, Dickerson comes up with fresh ideas on such songs as "Death and Taxes,” "The Cry” and "Infinite You.” A Sense of Direction has a mixture of originals and standards with Dickerson at times hinting at Bobby Hutcherson, who had yet to emerge. Relativity is a bit more accessible and swinging but still quite original. 1962’s To My Queen features Dickerson leading a quartet that includes Cyrille and the then-unknown pianist Andrew Hill. The material includes the intriguing "To My Queen,” "How Deep Is the Ocean?” and a vibes-bass duet on "God Bless the Child.”
After recording a couple other dates for different labels and working with Sun Ra, Dickerson retired from playing for a decade. He emerged in 1975, recording quite a few sessions during the next seven years that showed that he was still one of the top free-jazz/post-bop vibraphonists around. Walt Dickerson has been semi-active in recent years.