Wade Legge lived less than 30 years, his short career an impressive legacy of stimulating work and superb interaction with masters such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, and Charles Mingus. His name sounding like a partial description of a bathing event, Legge was a fine bassist as well as pianist. Vibraphonist Milt Jackson heard him plucking the former axe in a Buffalo club and called his friend Dizzy Gillespie, knowing the bebop trumpeter was restaffing a rhythm section. This led to a Legge up into Gillespie's combo, a good career move as this group was working steadily in the '50s. A half a month into the first tour, the story goes that Gillespie walked in on Legge playing piano and said "I'm switching you off bass." In another version, Legge got the job after showing the current pianist a hipper way to play a bridge. Legge stretched out in this group through 1954, getting his first opportunities to record as a trio leader when in France on Gillespie's dime.
Legge then roamed around New York City bandstands on a freelance basis. One of his main jobs was in an orchestra led by Johnny Richards, though he surely was more challenged by recording dates with Rollins and Mingus. Legge's piano work is part of Mingus' discography from the early '50s, specifically the Debut label. There he makes an impression as one of the more avant-garde-sounding fellows on the date, hitting a few chords that appear to have been constructed with a roulette wheel. Rollins Plays for Bird and Sonny Boy are a pair of total classics in which Legge is listening intently to the great tenor saxophonist; the pianist also gets a workout on Alto Madness, a typically exciting blowing date from the period in which saxophonist Jackie McLean is contrasted with the lesser-known John Jenkins. In all, the busy artist performed on more than 50 recording dates in a seven-year period. For the last four years of his life Legge returned to Buffalo, where local musicians recall that he seemed to look much older than his actual age. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi