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Seymour Lefco: The Jazz Dentist.

On September 6, 2006, the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle published an article, announcing “Milwaukee native and renowned “jazz dentist” Seymour Lefco died on Aug. 28 at age 91. He practiced general dentistry in the city of Milwaukee for more than 50 years, and was a board member of the Wisconsin State Dental Society. He was known as “the jazz dentist” because many great jazz musicians sought him out for dental work”.

Among those were Harry Belafonte, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, singer Anita O’Day, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillepie and Gerry Mulligan. Although the news itself is rather sad the story behind is interesting as not many dentist will be able to call themselves”jazz dentist” having had such jazz greats as patients. But what makes the story so special ?

During a concert in The Concertgebouw in my hometown Amsterdam (The Netherlands) Oscar Peterson announced he had gotten a song from Ray Brown, composed by a young man from Washington D.C. by the name of Clement Wells. The song was called”You Look Good To Me” which became a signature song of the Peterson Trio with Ray Brown on double bass and Ed Thigpen on drums. They recorded the song on the wellknown album “We Get Requests“.

Now back to the article in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle where it was stated that Ray Brown also gave the song too Seymour Lefco who wrote the  lyrics for it. Leaves the question: who was Clement Wells ? At least on the internet I could not find anything, with the exception of a letter to the editor I found in a magazine callled Ebony, in which a Clement A Wells Jr. wrote about a tribute to Joe Louis.

The central figure in this story is Ray Brown who brought all the players together, but the intriguing question is, “who was Clement Wells ?”. Where did he live, did he write more songs ? Did he have a musical carreer ? In other words who was he ?

As I could not find anything I address this question to my American jazzfriends: can you please help me out finding who Clement Wells was ?


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Bob van Eekhout is drummer en leider van Jazz Trio JazzTraffic, jazz recensent van HVT Magazine en Blogger

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