Bobby Wellins...
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Bobby Wellins...
Bobby Wellins Bobby Wellins was born in Scotland in 1936 and grew up in the Gorbals. His mother and father were both in the variety side of show business, and his father played a big part in his early musical education. He heard a lot of jazz in the family home including Jimmy Lunceford, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, but when his father brought home a record by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie he was bitten with the bebop bug. were musical and he played piano, alto sax and clarinet before joining the RAF as a musician playing tenor sax. After leaving the RAF and playing in a few Scottish palais bands he made the inevitable move to London for an apprenticeship with the big touring bands including a trip to the USA with Vic Lewis in 1955. He played with Buddy Featherstonhaugh in 1956/7 and other name bands in the late 1950s including Eric Winstone, Johnny Dankworth and Vic Lewis.

He joined Tony Crombie's renowned, but short lived, Jazz Inc in 1959, and met Stan Tracey with whom he was soon to form a musical bond that has existed for nearly fifty years. Already in evidence were the qualities that made Wellins stand out: the keen wounded tone, the long slow vibrato, the tactical use of space - at the time when most saxophonists aspired to sound like Tubby Hayes - and his ability to play solos avoiding hackneyed cliches.
Through 1960 he was with Bert Courtley in the Jazz Committee, a quintet with Ken Wray, and the Tommy Whittle Orchestra (1960/1). In 1965 he worked briefly in the Keith Christie/Jimmy Deuchar group. Working with Tracey he began to hone his skills and felt that the pair of them were developing something different and substantial but things started to go badly wrong. Hard drugs were part and parcel of the club environment of the time and Bobby succumbed to Heroin addiction in the mid 1960s.

In an interview by Michael Pearson published in Jazz Journal in 1990 Wellins spoke candidly of his drug problem:
We were becoming a bit disillusioned at the time, I wanted to move to Europe and then possibly America. We just weren't getting the breaks.... from around 1964 to 1975 I had a very bad habit which nearly finished me off completely. I suppose I kept going for six or seven years but then the downhill slope started and almost broke up my family.... my wife Isabella helped me to break free... I got off in 1975, I was forty years old and finished with it. The affair was over.

Towards the end of this period of ill-health Bobby stopped playing altogether. He took a long time to recover his health and return to playing and it was not until 1978 that he was back working regularly with the Jim Richardson Quartet.

In 1979 he rejoined Stan Tracey and led his own groups in the 1980s and 1990s and also active as a teacher, joining up periodically with Tracey to work and record...

Spike Wells writing in Jazz Journal in 1978 wrote an intelligent and comprehensive essay on the career and style of Bobby Wellins to that date. Below are a few brief extracts from it...
....Bobby has by inclination concentrated his talents within the traditional form of blowing on standard chord sequences. Indeed he can squeeze so much out of certain sets of changes that several numbers that he has adopted will never be quite the same again. As for saxophone technique and soloing methods, first and unforgettably there is the unique sound, pinched and fragile with an occasional slow vibrato which conveys a remarkable range of feeling from pathos to meanness, to mockery. Then there is the oblique approach to harmony: a strange choice of route through one progression, a seemingly naive negotiation of the next....original starkly original lines with a sardonic interspersing of earthy blues licks. Thirdly one is struck by the total rhythmic facility, leading to outrageously witty displaced accents and the transplantation of whole phrases across the bar line....thus three elements make up an overall style which somehow manages to combine vulnerability with fierce swing and complex subletly with folksy directness.

Bobby Wellins is what the discouraged beboppers in the wilderness would have called "a keeper of the flame". Described as "probably the most original and creative jazz musician to appear outside America since the war"....for a variety of reasons, some personal, he has been woefully underexposed and remained in the shadows, retaining a hard core of devotees (most of those I have met have been musicians) but not widely known to the jazz public. He has paid more dues than most and keeps coming back for more. In return for a contribution to jazz already massive and no doubt one day to be recognised, he has hitherto received paltry acknowledgement....

The above was written nearly 30 years ago and over the following years the jazz public have come to appreciate the talents of Bobby Wellins. After being off the scene for some time in the 1970s he began to record and play again in the clubs. His quartet recorded sessions in 1978 and 1979, then in the 1980s and 1990s other sessions followed, some with Stan Tracey. At the time of writing, (December 2006), the Stan Tracey Quartet is still playing in London and Bobby Wellins sometimes appears with them. He has led his own quartet for a number of years. The discography below is through to 2008...

He began a long musical association with Stan Tracey in 1964 playing in his New Departures Quartet and big band through to the early 1970s. The pair pioneered free form improvisation (independently of Joe Harriott or Ornette Coleman). Tracey's Under Milk Wood suite, recorded in 1965 and featuring Wellins, was arguably the first truly independent British jazz album. He died on the 27th October, 2016.

Buddy Featherstonhaugh New Quintet - December 3rd, 1956 (Nixa NJE1031)
Kenny Wheeler (tp), Buddy Featherstonhaugh (cl,bs), Bobby Wellins (ts), Bill Stark (b), Jackie Dougan (d).
Goldfish Blues*/Doin' The Uptown Lowdown*/Knock Yourself Out*/Henrietta*.
(*Vocalion CD - Jazz Today - Buddy Featherstonhaugh, Harry Klein and others)

Vic Lewis and his Orchestra - December 12th, 1957 (BBC)
Joe McIntyre, Dickie McPherson (tp), Alec Gould (tb), Colin Bradfield (as), Bobby Wellins (ts), Brian Rodgerson (bs), Gerry Butler (p), Bill Stark (b), Andy White (d), Vic Lewis (dir).
Blues For Lorraine.

In 1958 Vic Lewis toured the USA and the following titles were recorded at a concert at the University of Connecticut and were lated issued by DJM...
Vic Lewis and his Orchestra - March 12th, 1958 (DJM)
Joe McIntyre, Dickie McPherson, Kenny Wheeler (tp), Al Spooner, Alec Gould (tb), Colin Bradfield, Ronnie Baker (as), Bobby Wellins, Duncan Lamont (ts), Brian Rodgerson (bs), Gerry Butler (p), Bill Stark (b), Bobby Orr (d), Vic Lewis (dir).
That's Love/Over The Rainbow/El Congo Valiente.

Tony Crombie Orchestra - December 30th, 1959 (BBC Transcription)
Leon Calvert, Les Condon (tp), Al Newman (cl,as), Bobby Wellins (ts), Harry Klein (bs), Stan Tracey (p), Kenny Napper (b), Tony Crombie (d).
East Of The Sun*/Baby Blue*/Summertime*/Time's A-Wastin' (theme).
(*Vocalion CD - BBC Rare transcription recordings (1959-60) Volume Two)

Tempo TAP30 was titled "Jazz Inc. - Swinging Music in The Modern Manner". Although acclaimed by musicians, fans and several leading critics, the orchestra on this record performed for just seventeen weeks during 1959. Commercially, the band could be said to have failed, but musically it was a triumph.
Tony Crombie Orchestra - January 6th, 1960 (Tempo TAP30)
Leon Calvert, Les Condon (tp), Al Newman (cl,as), Bobby Wellins (ts), Harry Klein (bs), Stan Tracey (p), Kenny Napper (b), Tony Crombie (d).
Caravan*/Boo Bah*/Lullaby*/Reelin*/Li'l O'l Pottsville*^/Jamba* (as Jammin' on #)/I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart*/Summertime*.
(*Jasmine CD - Tony Crombie - Jazz Inc)
(#Ember CD - Tony Crombie - A Tribute)
(*Avid 2 CD set - Stan Tracey: Three Classic Albums Plus)
(^Giant Steps 2CD set - Soho After Dark 'London's '50s Modern Jazz Scene')

Tony Crombie Orchestra - August, 1961 (Ember EMB3336)
Harold McNair (as,f), Bobby Wellins (ts), Gordon Beck (p), Malcolm Cecil (b), Tony Crombie (d).
Yodelin'*#/Stop That Man#/Round the 'Ouses#/The Gang Busters#.
(*Fantastic Voyage 2 CD set - Ember Jazz - The Flamingo Connection)
(#Fantastic Voyage CD - Whole Lota Tony)
(#Real Gone Jazz CD - Tony Crombie: Seven Classic Albums plus bonus EP)

Forty Two Big Band - spring, 1963 (Columbia)
Bobby Pratt, Bert Courtley, Derrick Abbott, Les Condon (tp), Keith Christie, Gib Wallace, Bobby Lamb, Bill Geldard (tb), Johnny Scott (as), Tommy Whittle, Eddie Mordue, Bobby Wellins (ts), Ronnie Ross (bs), Tommy Watt (p,ldr), Malcolm Cecil (b), Bobby Orr (d).
Woodchoppers Ball/Tuxedo Junction/St. Louis Blues/C Jam Blues.

At this time Johnny Dankworth started to produce albums that were not just a succession of big band jazz tracks, but were themed LPs or suites and the first of them was issued as What the Dickens !, the titles linked to associations with Charles Dickens characters or phrases.
Johnny Dankworth Orchestra with featured guests - July 29th and 31st, August 7th, and October 4th, 1963 (Fontana TF5203)
Gus Galbraith, Leon Calvert, Kenny Wheeler, Dickie Hawdon (tp), Tony Russell, Eddie Harvey (tb), Ron Snyder or Alf Reece (tu), Johnny Dankworth, Roy East (as,cl), Vic Ash (cl,ts), Art Ellefson (ts,b-cl), Alan Branscombe (p,vib,xyl), Kenny Napper or Spike Heatley (b), Johnny Butts (d). Special guests: Jimmy Deuchar (tp), Tony Coe, Tubby Hayes, Peter King, Ronnie Scott, Bobby Wellins, Dick Morrissey (ts), Ronnie Ross (bs), Ronnie Stephenson (d), Roy Webster (perc)
Prologue/Weller Never Did^/Little Nell^/The Infant Phenomenon/Demdest Little Fascinator/Dotheboys Hall/Ghosts^/David And The Bloaters/Please Sir, I Want Some More/The Artful Dodger/Waiting For Something To turn Up/Fodson And Fogg/The Pickwick Club/Sergeant Buzfuz/Finale.
(Sepia RSCD 2016 - What the Dickens)
(^Salvo 4CD Box set - I Hear Music - A Celebration of the Life and Work of Cleo Laine & John Dankworth)

Tubby Hayes and his Orchestra - April 20th, 1964 (Tubb's Tours - Fontana TL5221)
Jimmy Deuchar (tp,mel), Ian Hamer, Bert Courtley (tp), Keith Christie (tb), Ken Wray (v-tb), Jackie Sharpe (bs,cl), Alan Branscombe (as,bs, b-cl), Tubby Hayes (ts,fl,vib,timp), Peter King, Bobby Wellins (ts,cl), Terry Shannon (p), Freddie Logan (b), Allan Ganley (d).
In The Night*/The Scandinavian*/Pedro's Walk*/Raga*.
(*Impressed Repressed CD - Tubbs Tours)

April 24th, 1964 (Tubb's Tours - Fontana TL5221)
Les Condon (tp) ,Ronnie Ross (as,bs,b-cl) replace Bert Courtley and Alan Branscombe.
Israel Nights*/Russian Roulette*/Parisian Thoroughfare*/The Killers Of W.1*/Sasa-hivi*.
(*Impressed Repressed CD - Tubbs Tours)

The New Departures Quartet - June 22nd, 1964 (Transatlantic TRA134)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Stan Tracey (p), Jeff Clyne (b), Laurie Morgan (d).
Love With Variations*/McTaggart*/Culloden Moor*/Afro Charlie*.
(*Hot House CD - The New Departures Quartet)

July 13th, 1964 (Transatlantic TRA134)
As June 22nd.
Let Them Crevulate*/Everywhere Derriere (unissued)/Amoroso Only More So (unissued).
(*Hot House CD - The New Departures Quartet)

Stan Tracey Quartet - November 20th, 1964 (Columbia)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Stan Tracey (p), Rick Laird (b), Tony Crombie (d).
Titles recorded are not known - none were ever issued.

Tubby Hayes Big Band - probably January 31st, 1965 (BBC TV-Cast live from the Marquee Club, London *IAJRC50)
Jimmy Deuchar, Ian Hamer, Les Condon (tp), Keith Christie, Ken Wray (tb), Tubby Hayes (ts,fl,vib), Peter King, Bobby Wellins (ts), Ronnie Ross, Jackie Sharpe (bs), Terry Shannon (p), Freddie Logan (b), Allan Ganley (d).
Parisian Thoroughfare*/Young And Foolish*.
(*IAJRC CD -Tubby Hayes: England's Late Jazz Great)

Stan Tracey Quartet - May 8th, 1965 (Jazz Suite: Under Milk Wood - Columbia 33SX1774, SCX3589)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Stan Tracey (p), Jeff Clyne (b), Jackie Dougan (d).
Cockle Row*/Starless And Bible Black*/I Lost My Step In Nantucket (BW out)*/No Good Boyo*/Pen Pals*/Llareggub*/Under Milk Wood*/AM Mayhem*/Polly Garter's Lament (unissued).
(*ReSteamed Records CD - Jazz Suite inspired by Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood )

Stan Tracey Big Band - March 8th/9th, 1966 (Alice in Jazzland - Columbia SX6051, SXC6051)
Kenny Baker, Eddie Blair, Ian Hamer, Les Condon (tp), Keith Christie, Wally Smith, Chris Smith (tb), Ronnie Baker (as,cl), Alan Branscombe (as), Ronnie Scott, Bobby Wellins (ts), Harry Klein (bs), Stan Tracey (p,arr), Jeff Clyne (b), Ronnie Stephenson (d). (Wellins was not present on three other titles recorded on March 23rd)
Afro-Charlie Meets The White Rabbit*/Portrait Of A Queen*/Alice In Jazzland*/Fantasies In Bloom*/Teatime Gavotte*.
(*Resteamed CD - Alice in Jazzland)

A year after recording "Under Milk Wood" in a quartet setting, Stan Tracey recorded it again in Hamburg Germany, adding Kenny Wheeler to the line-up. Only one title* was ever issued, as part of a compilation.
Stan Tracey Quartet with Kenny Wheeler - March 18th, 1966 (Die Jazz Werkstaff '66 - NDR629904)
Kenny Wheeler (tp,fl-hrn), Bobby Wellins (ts), Stan Tracey (p), Jeff Clyne (b), Jackie Dougan (d).
Cockle Row/Starless And Bible Black (KW out)/I Lost My Step In Nantucket (KW,BW out)/No Good Boyo/Pen Pals/ Llareggub/Under Milk Wood/AM Mayhem*.

Stan Tracey Quartet - October 8th, 1967 (With love from jazz - Columbia SX6205, SCX6205)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Stan Tracey (vib), Lennie Bush (b), Ronnie Stephenson (d).
Three Times Loser Three Times Blueser*.
(*Trio Records CD - With love from jazz)

Stan Tracey Quartet - October 10th/12th, 1967 (With love from jazz - Columbia SX6205, SCX6205)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Stan Tracey (p,cel-2), Dave Green (b), Jackie Dougan (d).
Everywhere Derriere*/Love Now Weep Later*/Sweet Used To Be*/Lovers' Freeway*/Two-part Intention*/Undercover Lover*/ Amoroso Only More So (2)*.
(*Trio Records CD - With love from jazz)

Bobby Wellins Quartet - June 8th, 1978 (Live...Jubilation - Vortex VS-1)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Peter Jacobsen (p,el-p), Adrian Kendon (b), Spike Wells (d).
Jubilation/Nomad/What's Happening?/Spider.

Bobby Wellins Quartet - 1979 (Dreams are free - Vortex VS-2)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Peter Jacobsen (p,el-p), Adrian Kendon (b), Spike Wells (d).
Dreams Are Free/Love Dance/Aura/conundrums/What Is The Proof?/Ba-loos.

Jimmy Knepper / Bobby Wellins - November 19th, 1980 (Primrose path - Hep 2012)
Jimmy Knepper (tb), Bobby Wellins (ts), Peter Jacobsen (p,), Dave Green (b), Ron Parry (d).
Primrose Path*/What Is There To Say*/Song For Keith/Gnome On The Range*/'Round Midnight*/Latterday Saint.
(*Hep CD - Special relationship) - see also Joe Temperley October 20th, 1978

Spectrum - April 9th, 1982 (Tribute to Monk - Lansdowne Series Switch SWLP001
Kenny Wheeler (tp,flhrn), Peter King (as), Art Themen (as,ts), Bobby Wellins (ts), Stan Tracey (p), Roy Babbington (b), Clarke Tracey (d).
In Walked Bud/Pannonica/Misterioso/I Mean You/'Round Midnight/Little Rootie Tootie.

Erco TAA4852 is a limited edition LP which was released c1983 and was only available to employees of the ERCO Lighting Co. who sponsored the session. It was recorded in the Erco showrooms in London. Hep later released it as a CD with titles not included on the LP (A Train and the medley) added...
Bobby Wellins Quartet - October 1st, 1983 (Erco makes light work - Erco TAA4852)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Peter Jacobsen (p), Kenny Baldock (b), Spike Wells (d).
ERCO Makes Light Work*/Visionaire*/Bossa Oseris*/Logotec Logorhythm*/Track Sound*/Downright Downlight*/Take The 'A' Train*/Medley* (Friends*/I'm Beginning To See The Light*).
(*Hep CD - Making light work)

Bobby Wellins Quartet + others - England c1989 (Birds of Brazil - Sungai BW11)
Kenny Wheeler (flhrn,tp), Bobby Wellins (ts), Peter Jacobsen (p), Kenny Baldock (b), Spike Wells (d) + The Delme String Quartet.
Birds Of Brazil (suite in three movements)*/Angel Eyes*/Moonray*/In Walked Bud* .
(*Sungai CD - Birds of Brazil)

Bobby Wellins Quartet with Claire Martin - April 25th and 26th, 1992 (Nomad - Hot House HHCD1008)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Jonathon Gee (p), Thad Kelly (b), Spike Wells (d), Claire Martin (vcl).
CUCB*/Be My Love*/Nomad (vcl)*/Sandu*/Love For Sale*/Willow Weep For Me*/Remember Me (vcl)*/This I Dig Of You*/Little Rootie Tootie*/Silent Love (vcl)*/This Here*/Cabin In The Sky*.
(*Hot House CD - Nomad)

Bobby Wellins Quartet - February 16th, 1996 (Don't Worry 'Bout Me - Cadillac SGCCD05)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Graham Harvey (p), Alec Dankworth (b), Martin Drew (d).
I Concentrate On You*/My Old Flame*/In Your Own Sweet Way*/Lover Man*/I'm Wishing*/Don't Worry 'Bout Me*/How Deep Is The Ocean*/Tracery*.
(*Cadillac CD - Don't worry 'bout me "Live at the Vortex")

Bobby Wellins Quartet - July 29th and 31st, 1996 (The Satin Album - Jazzizit JITCD9607)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Colin Purbrook (p), Dave Green (b), Clark Tracey (d).
I'm A Fool To Want You*/For Heaven's Sake*/You Don't Know What Love Is*/I Get Along Without You Very Well*/For All We Know*/Violets For Your Furs*/You've Changed*/It's Easy To Remember*/But Beautiful*/Glad To Be Unhappy*/I'll Be Around*/The End Of A Love Affair*.
(*Jazzizit CD - The Satin Album)

Spike Robinson - March 5th, 1997 (Spike Robinson's Tenor Madness - Essential Jazz ESJCD600)
Spike Robinson, Bobby Wellins (ts), Alan Barnes, John Barnes (ts,bs), John Pearcs (p), Leon Clayton (b), Bobby Worth (d), Wayne Scott (arr).
Here We Go Again*/The Pretty One*/The Note*/The Goof And I*/A Quick One*.

As above except John Barnes out.
T'aint No Use*/Take Four*/I'm Travelin' Light*/One Good Turn*/Stockholm LA*.

John Barnes (ts,bs) added, Alan Barnes out, Bobby Wellins (arr) replaces Scott on (1).
Tickle Toe*/You 'n 'me*/Tenor Madness (1)*/Just An Old Manuscript*.
(*Essential Jazz CD - Spike Robinson's Tenor Madness)

Stan Tracey / Bobby Wellins Quartet - 1998 (Comme D'habitude - Jazzizit)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Stan Tracey (p), Andy Cleyndert (b), Clark Tracey (d).
Comme D'habitude*/Nice Work If You Can Get It*/Bewitched*/I Get A Kick Out Of You*/The Lady Is A Tramp*/Night And Day*/Angel Eyes*/Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry*/What's New*/Poor Butterfly*/I've Got You Under My Skin*/Nice'n Easy*.
(*Jazzizit CD - Comme D'habitude "Sinatra Tribute Album")

Bobby Wellins Quartet - summer, 2000 (The Best Is Yet To Come - Jazzizit JITCD0024)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Liam Noble (p), Simon Thorpe (b), Dave Wickins (d).
The Good Life*/When Joanna Loved Me*/I Wanna Be Around*/Fascinating Rhythm*/Stranger In Paradise*/San Francisco*/When The Sun Comes Out*/Quiet Nights*/Taking A Chance On Love*/You Must Believe In Spring*/The Best Is Yet To Come*.
(*Jazzizit CD - The Best Is Yet To Come, "Music inspired by Tony Bennett")

Bobby Wellins Quartet - 2003 (Fun - Jazzizit)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Mark Edwards (p), Andy Cleyndert (b), Spike Wells (d).
Raunchy*/The Odd Couple*/Angel Of The North*/Dunna Runner*/Smouldering*/The Promised Land*/Monk's Mood*/Smoke Gets In Your Eyes*/Lover*.
(*Jazzizit CD - Fun)

Bobby Wellins Quartet - summer, 2005 live at the Appleby Jazz Festival (When the sun comes out - Trio)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Mark Edwards (p), Andy Cleyndert (b), Spike Wells (d).
Festival Blues*/Monk's Mood*/Mad About the Boy*/When You Wish Upon A Star*/Fascinating Rhythm*/When the Sun Comes Out*/Dizzy's Blues*.
(*Trio CD - When the sun comes out)

Snapshot contains six titles by what, for five years, had been Wellins regular quartet. The quartet were recorded live at various locations over a seven month period...
Bobby Wellins Quartet - September 29th, 2007 (Snapshot - Trio)
Bobby Wellins (ts), Mark Edwards (p), Andy Cleyndert (b), Spike Wells (d).
My Funny Valentine*.

February 16th, 2008 (Snapshot - Trio)
personnel as September 29th, 2007.
Old Folks*/Favella*/Love For Sale*.

March 7th, 2008 (Snapshot - Trio)
personnel as September 29th, 2007.
Dizzy's Blues*.

May 4th, 2008 (Snapshot - Trio)
personnel as September 29th, 2007.
Caravan*.
(*Trio CD - Snapshot)

Garry Kavanagh / Bobby Wellins Quintet - 2008 (Joy Spring - Trio TR 582)
Gary Kavanagh (tp), Bobby Wellins (ts), Roy Hilton (p), Dave Whitford (b), Spike Wells (d).
Joy Spring*/Blues Walk*/Valse Hot*/If I Love Again*/I Remember Clifford*/Parisian Thoroughfare*/Sunset Eyes*/Jordu*/Salute To The Band Box*.
(*Trio CD - Joy Spring - The music of Clifford Brown)

Bobby Wellins Quartet - 2010 (Time Gentlemen Please - Trio TR 587)
Bobby Wellins (ts), John Critchinson (p), Andrew Cleyndert (b), Mark Taylor (d).
Time Gentlemen Please*/I'm Wishing*/Quando, Quando, Quando*/It Never Entered My Mind*/St. Louis Blues*/My Shining Hour*/In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning*/Dream Dancing*/Willow Weep For Me*/The Shadow Of Your Smile*.
(*Trio CD - Time Gentlemen Please)


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