Written by Dan Miller
(1917-1993) Dizzy Gillespie was the father of modern jazz trumpet. The brilliance of his improvisations was unparalleled and the harmonic and rhythmic complexity of his ideas was groundbreaking.
Influenced by Roy Eldridge, Dizzy began his career in Teddy Hill's band in 1937. He spent 1939-1941 working for Cab Calloway, writing arrangements and honing his skills as an improviser. By 1941, Dizzy's unique style had already begun to emerge. His evolution as a soloist is well documented, recording frequently as a free-lance artist, most notably with Coleman Hawkins (Disorder at the Border) and Les Hite (Jersey Bounce).
The after hours scene in NYC was flourishing at clubs like Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House, and Dizzy was an integral participant (Listen: Stardust and Kerouac from Charlie Christian/Dizzy Gillespie's After Hours).
In Charlie Parker, Gillespie had found someone who shared his vision for the direction of the music and they revolutionized the rhythmic and harmonic approach to improvisation. They would work together with Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine (Listen: Dizzy's solo on I Stay in the Mood for You), fermenting their ideas. Diz and Bird's musical relationship began to flourish and their early genius and interplay is well noted on the famous Redcross recordings of February 15, 1943. Recorded in room 308 of the Savoy Hotel in Chicago, a blistering eight minute version of Sweet Georgia Brown find Parker and Gillespie in full flight, supported by the hard swinging Oscar Pettiford. Bird's on tenor, and he and Dizzy trade chorus after chorus of raw, unadulterated brilliance.
By 1945, Diz and Bird began recording together and their incredible, collective genius shattered the consciousness of the music world (Listen: Salt Peanuts, Shaw 'Nuff, Groovin' High and Hot House). One of the finest products of Bird and Diz's partnership was the Clyde Hart All-Stars date recorded on January 4, 1945 featuring Don Byas, Trummy Young and the infamous Rubberlegs Williams (Listen: What's the Matter Now?). Gillespie and Parker would continue their on again off again relationship until Bird's death in 1955.
Gillespie organized his own bebop big band in 1946 (Listen: Things to Come, Manteca and Good Bait) that he would front until he was forced to fold in 1950. Dizzy also pioneered the use of afro-Cuban rhythms in jazz as early as 1946 through his partnership with Chano Pozo.
During the fifties and sixties, he was often featured with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic, and his work with Granz's Verve label yielded many tremendous records (For Musicians Only, Sunnyside Up, Roy and Diz, Dizzy in Greece, Birk's Works, Duets: Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt, Have Trumpet Will Excite, Diz and Getz, Live at Newport, An Electrifying Evening with Dizzy Gillespie, Gillespiana and Perceptions). Dizzy continued to record for Granz on his Pablo label in the seventies and eighties. Gillespie alternately led excellent small and large ensembles the rest of his career.
© 2002 Dan Miller
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