Dizzy Gillespie
(Copyright © 1999-2018 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Jazz at Massey Hall (1953), 7.5/10
The Bop Session (1975), 6/10
Concert of the Century (1980), 5.5/10

Bebop was born in 1941, when trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (1917), double bass player Milt Hinton, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianist Thelonious Monk and drummer Kenny Clarke began playing informally together. Its official birth place was "Minton's Playhouse", a New York club. Due to a strike by recording artists, very little was documented on record until 1944.

South Carolina's trumpeter John "Dizzy" Gillespie, also an accomplished songwriter, was hired in 1939 by Cab Calloway's orchestra, where he developed a style very influenced by Roy Eldridge. In 1942 he joined Earl Hines, where in 1943 he played alongside alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and vocalist Sarah Vaughan, and began to display a much more personal style, expanding his habit of improvising new chord changes on a melody to an almost manic form of art, turning dynamics into the very essence of jazz at the expense of intimacy (sometimes replaced by overtones of melodrama and euphoria).

Gillespie's A Night In Tunisia (composed in 1942 as Interlude) was first sung by Vaughan. In 1944 the three young talents (Parker, Gillespie and Vaughan) followed Hines' male vocalist Billy Eckstine when he started his own band. At the same time, in 1944, Dizzy Gillespie's quintet, featuring Max Roach on drums and Oscar Pettiford on bass, and later Charlie Parker, began performing at New York's "Onyx Club" (the first time that the word "bebop" was used to promote a band).

Gillespie's first major recordings (january 1945), in a piano-based sextet with Trummy Young on trombone, Pettiford on bass and Don Byas on tenor instead of Parker, showed Gillespie's textural dexterity applied to both material specifically composed for bebop performers, such as Salt Peanuts, Be Bop and Tadd Dameron's Good Bait, and reworked swing classics, such as Vernon Duke's I Can't Get Started (january 1945). Another sextet with Dexter Gordon and white pianist Frank Paparelli recorded Blue 'n' Boogie (february 1945). The new aesthetic was fully implemented in the tunes (mostly composed by Gillespie) recorded by the All Stars, namely a quintet with Parker on tenor and Al Haig on piano: Groovin' High (february 1945), Dizzy Atmosphere (february 1945), Shaw 'Nuff (may 1945) and Tadd Dameron's Hot House (may 1945), based on Cole Porter's What Is This Thing Called Love. The Jazzmen, a sextet with Lucky Thompson on tenor instead of Parker, Haig on piano and Milt Jackson on vibraphone, debuted Confirmation (february 1946).

In 1945 Gillespie organized his own band, that lasted till 1950. Hits such as Things to Come (june 1946) were arranged by Gil Fuller. Gillespie's band pioneered Cuban bop, a genre born of the wedding between Cuban rhythms and bebop. His association with Cuban conga player Chano Pozo yielded George Russell's Cubana Be Cubana Bop (december 1947), possibly the first modal improvisation on record, and their Manteca (december 1947). Gillespie's rhythm section of 1947 consisted of John Lewis, Milt Jackson, Kenny Clarke and Ray Brown, that would soon form the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Jazz at Massey Hall (may 1953) documents a legendary performance with Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach. It contains versions of Juan Tizol's Perdido, Thelonious Monk's All the Things You Are, Tadd Dameron's Hot House, Dizzy Gillespie's Salt Peanuts and A Night in Tunisia.

After a mediocre decade, Gillespie converted to "third stream" music. Argentinian pianist Boris "Lalo" Schifrin composed for him the five-movement Gillespiana Suite (november 1960) and the six-movement suite The New Continent (september 1962), while Perceptions (may 1961) came from trombonist James "J.J." Johnson, and Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill scored Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods (june 1975).

The Bop Session (may 1975) was recorded with Sonny Stitt (alto and tenor saxes), John Lewis and Hank Jones (pianos), Percy Heath (bass) and Max Roach (drums).

Concert Of The Century (november 1980) assembled Milt Jackson (vibraphone), James Moody (tenor sax and flute), Hank Jones (piano), Ray Brown (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums) for a live performance.

Gillespie died of cancer in 1993.

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