Dobbin's Den


WALLY DUNBAR was born in Montreal on March 11, 1934. He took up the trumpet in 1946 and later studied that instrument in New York with Carmine Caruso. His first professional gig was in Brownsburg, north of Montreal. By the 1950s he was not only playing but also arranging for the Frank Costi band, a tentet that worked at the Palais d'Or between 1951 and 1953. Work with Bix Belair at the posh Bellevue Casino was followed by an engagement with Boogie Gaudet, a summer gig near Grandmère that included a young Vic Vogel on piano. Then there were Montreal gigs at Vic's Café and at the French Casino, all between 1955 and 1957. In 1959 Dunbar was in Maury Kaye's band at the Bellevue and in the early sixties he was heard with singer Denny Vaughan at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I remember hearing him as a member of the trumpet section of the Steve Garrick big band, a jazz ensemble that did a number of concerts in Montreal in the late fifties.

Dunbar left Montreal in 1962 and worked on the road with the big bands of Warren Covington, Billy May and Woody Herman before settling in New York the following year. There he set up Wally Dunbar Music Services which developed into a highly successful music copying service. This success allowed Wally to continue with his first love, composing and arranging. The New York Saxophone Quartet, of which Billy Kerr was a member, recorded one of Dunbar's compositions for the Stash label and, as a trumpeter he was heard at the 1981 Delaware Water Gap Festival, an event that was recorded and released on the Omnisound label.

Dunbar's debut as a leader is now in release. Everything In Time (Consolidated Artists Productions) by the Wally Dunbar Jazz Eleven was recorded in Englewood, N.J. on April 26-27, 1999 and June 9, 2000. It consists of eleven tracks all either composed or arranged by Wally. The arrangements are fresh looks at "Nardis", "On A Misty Night", "Whisper Not" and "In A Mellotone" plus "A Visit From Home" by Dennis Anderson. The six Dunbar originals are "Five and Dime", "Horn 'n' Heartache" [for a New York automat], "La Joie" dedicated to his wife Joy, "Doodie!" for his son Miles, "L'il Bro'" for his trumpet playing brother Don, who lives in Montreal (and who was spotted dining at the Upstairs club recently checking out the talents of Coral Egan) and "TDK Waltz" dedicated to trumpeter Lee Katzman's son. Dunbar doesn't play on the CD but directs the 11-piecer made up of crackerjack New York-based musicians. The soloists on the CD are Jim Pugh and Mark Patterson, trombones, Nathan Durham, bass trombone, Brian Pareschi, Bob Millikan, Irv Grossman and John Eckert, trumpets, Gerry Niewood, alto, Ken Hitchcock, tenor, Roger Rosenberg, baritone, Ken Ascher, piano, Bill Moring, bass and Ronnie Zito, drums. All making for a superior large ensemble outing and a debut to be heralded. The CD is available on the web at

© Len Dobbin 2002