The prolific Vinnie Dean managed to play on close to 75 recording sessions in 11 years; both the large and small details of his career are likely to be mentioned in terms of describing his very special contribution to the New York jazz scene. In terms of instrumentation, no detail is smaller than a piccolo -- although the headache that might accompany either playing or listening to a jazz piccolo solo could be elephantine for some listeners. Those who do appreciate the piccolo will inevitably discover Dean among the small number of jazz performers who made good on the tiny axe; another, Pharoah Sanders, commented in an interview that he was "relieved when my piccolo got stolen." Like Sanders, Dean also had other artillery to fall back on: alto saxophone and flute.
Dean's gigging days began in the second half of the '40s in a series of classic jazz and dance bands. In the early '50s he took a job that resulted in his being known as a Kenton alumni, as in a featured soloist in the progressive jazz big-band music of Stan Kenton, including the famously frigid Winter Sequence album. Grandest of Dean's accomplishments, nonetheless, may just be what he managed to do following a return to his hometown of Mount Vernon, NY, near the end of that decade. While many players are reluctant to become involved in substantial aspects of the music business outside of simply performing, Dean undertook a series of impressive ventures: his own record store; then his own recording studio, booking agency, and publishing company. Jazz fans in Yonkers were able to check out Dean's quartet in the late '50s and early '60s; he was also featured on several tours with Benny Goodman during that period. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi