Bobby Wellins Quartet: What Was Happening

The Scottish saxophonist's albums Jubilation (1978) and Dreams Are Free (1979) are reissued as a double CD that adds bonuses from the period


Glaswegian Bobby Wellins was born into a musical family. His father, a saxophonist, taught him to play the instrument and his mother was a singer. During his national service, Wellins studied clarinet at the RAF School of Music. By 1956 he was playing in Buddy Featherstonhaugh’s bebop quintet along with Kenny Wheeler. Through the early 60s he played the London jazz scene in Tony Crombie’s band and left his mark on jazz history in Stan Tracey’s 1965 Under Milk Wood.

After heroin addiction had stalled his career for the best part of a decade Wellins returned to playing and recorded two LPs, Jubilation (1978) and Dreams Are Free (1979). Both are reissued here on a double CD.

Wellins on tenor sax is joined on both albums by pianist Pete Jacobsen who was blind from birth, bassist Adrian Kendon and former Tubby Hayes’ drummer, Spike Wells. Jubilation was recorded live at a club date in Brighton’s Hanbury Arms and at times you can hear that the pub’s upright piano was in need of some tuning. By contrast, Dreams Are Free was recorded in a professional studio in Eltham and Jacobsen was playing a Steinway.

All compositions on the original LPs were penned by Wellins. Each CD also provides a batch of previously unheard bonus tracks performed by the same lineup. These are all covers given the Wellins treatment and have been transferred from reel-to-reel tapes recorded at the time by Wells. Sound quality is good. Those on the first CD are from another night in 1978 at the Hanbury Arms and those on the second are a 1979 Radio Clyde broadcast of Monk’s Rhythm-a-ning with the rest from a live gig the same year at Christ’s Hospital Arts Centre, Horsham.

In Spike Wells’s apt phraseology, “Bobby is back and how! – brimming with confidence and bouncing off all corners of his new quartet.” Spike says that for those familiar with Wellins’ recordings with Stan Tracey or with his later, more mellow work, “this 1978/79 Bobby is edgy, experimental, raw and exciting”. He adds “It’s also as haunting as anything else he has done before or since.”

The eight-panel digipack includes a 16-page booklet with discerning liner notes by Wells, previously unseen photos and Jazz Journal reviews published at the time of the original albums. It’s a limited edition with only 500 copies available worldwide.

CD1: [Jubilation] (1) Jubilation; Nomad; What’s Happening; Spider. Bonus tracks: Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Billie’s Bounce (75.22)
CD2: [Dreams Are Free] (2) Dreams Are Free; Love Dance; Aura; Conundrums; What Is The Truth; Ba-Loos. Bonus tracks: Rhythm-a-Ning; In A Sentimental Mood; Now’s The Time; My Melancholy Baby (77.24)
Wellins (ts); Pete Jacobsen (p, elp, org); Adrian Kendon (b); Spike Wells (d). (1) Brighton Jazz Club, 8 June 1978. Bonus tracks: 19 January 1978. (2) Eltham, 1979. Bonus tracks: Glasgow, 2 May 1979 & Horsham, 8 June 1979.
Jazz In Britain JIB-33-S-CD