The greater San Francisco-area jazz community was quite tight in the late 1950s and early ’60s; not only did all the players know each other, they likely all performed together at some point during their careers. It’s therefore no surprise when I come across yet another musician who worked with Guaraldi, even if only briefly.
Today’s case in point is Dalt Williams, born and raised in Vallejo, California, where his music interest initially found him playing trumpet and tuba. He enlisted in the U.S. Army following high school, and soon found himself in the 438th Army Band at Camp Stoneman, in Pittsburgh, California. This was in the 1950s.
“They wanted to form a jazz group,” Dalt recalled, during a recent chat, “and a friend of mine was studying theory with Jack Weeks, well known for his work then with Cal Tjader. My friend suggested that I tag along, and I said sure. I’d been playing sousaphone at the time, but thanks to Jack, that’s how I got started on the bass.”
The bass subsequently became Dalt’s instrument of choice. A few years later, after his military service concluded, he resumed his formal education.
“I transferred to San Francisco State, and was playing with groups in the city. I got a call from Vince one day, it probably was some time in 1958, wanting to know if I was available, so I wound up working a few gigs with his trio. I remember the first one very well: It was for a dance at the NCO Club on Treasure Island, which still was a naval base back then.”
Dalt is certain that a few other gigs followed, but details are lost in the haze of more than half a century gone by. But his memory of Vince remains fond.
“He was an amazing player, and a straight-ahead guy. We’d have played standards at that dance; he’d call ’em, and we just played ’em. It was a smooth fit; as a bass player, I remember it was easy to follow along.”
Alas, no photos were taken of this meeting between rising pianist and bassist.
The stint with Vince was brief, and Dalt soon found himself a regular part of the Al Trobbe Trio. Graduation and a degree in music education from San Francisco State followed, after which Dalt happily embraced a 35-year career as a teacher. He never saw Vince again.
Even while teaching, Dalt found time to gig here and there. Today he’s part of a combo that bills itself as Jazz for All Occasions, which promises “swingin’ jazz for your event ... public or private, in the San Francisco Bay Area or Northern California.” Jazz obviously remains a passion.
“The idea is to book the gigs,” he chuckles, “get out, and have some fun!”