Jazz Insights: Rick Wells

Portsmouth’s Rick Wells is truly one of New England’s top jazz drummers. Rick separates himself from other drummers, smartly choosing to be more of an accompanist, rather than a showman soloist. He wisely recognizes that he is hired to complement other members of the group, not to take away from other talents during performances. His softness and unique touches blend perfectly in his contributions to any appropriate music. Yet, he gives his all to solo opportunities and is well applauded for his solo skills.

Wells grew up in New Jersey favoring the work of Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and admiring the skills of Buddy Rich, Mel Lewis, Art Blakey, Harold Jones and Conrad Duco. He attended William Paterson College, where he became a member of the jazz ensemble under the direction of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. Lewis recognized Rick’s skills and encouraged him to try a career in music. Following Mel’s advice, he performed at weddings and with rock groups, honing different styles.
During his time off, he worked in electronics, managed a catering business, got involved in Cub scouts and volunteered as a little league coach. Many years later Rick and his family moved to Rhode Island.
He got involved with music once again with performances at the Greenvale Vineyards’ seasonal jazz series in Portsmouth, where he has played regularly for the past three years. He has played with most of the touring performers, as well as the leading local jazz groups, and his rising reputation has led to more work.

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