First and most important: Happy Birthday, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie. Born one hundred years ago, on October 21, 1917 and blessing us music lovers with his presence until Jan 6, 1993, leaving a catalog of excellent to must-listen-to music for many generations of listeners.
I was lucky enough to see him live in Oslo, Norway in 1978 and hear him and his group play “Night in Tunisia.” He was personable, relaxed, and loved being in front of a small auditorium of very attentive listeners. The music was excellent and the time raced by. At the end, I realized how lucky I was to get a ticket that very evening an hour or two before the performance, and thus be able to witness such amazing music. I am also thankful that I had a friend, who earlier, in California, had persuaded me to go with him to listen to jazz artists like Sonny Stitt and Milt Jackson, leading my onto the path of developing my love for bebop.
You see, Dizzy was one of the founding fathers of bebop, along with other giants like Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell. The recordings he made in the 1940s with Charlie Parker are essential listening, and are as an important part of musical history as the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (aka “Le Sacre du printemps”), Alban Berg’s two amazing operas, or the British Invasion and the rise of The Beatles and development of progressive rock.
We are very fortunate that on October 1st, 1967, three sets of music were recorded at the Village Vanguard, the famous jazz New York City jazz club. The Solid State LP includes three tracks, one from each set, with Dizzy, Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone, Ray Nance on violin, Chick Corea on piano, Richard Davis on bass, and, on drums, Elvin Jones on “Dizzy’s Blues”, and Mel Lewis on the other two tracks. Later, Solid State releases two more LPs of material, which Blue Note later releases on CD in a 2 CD set.
This music is not to be missed, the musicians are excellent and the playing is riveting. If you want to sample the first LP released by Solid State, you can find it on youtube:
Track listing (all compositions by Dizzy Gillespie)
- Dizzy’s Blues (aka”Birk’s Works”) – 14:30 (This is edited and the complete, nearly eighteen minute version is available on the Blue Note 2 CD set)
- “Blues for Max” – 9:10
- “Tour de Force” – 9:45 (This is edited and the complete, nearly twelve minute version is available on the Blue Note 2 CD set)
- Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet
- Pepper Adams, baritone sax
- Ray Nance, violin
- Garnett Brown (on “Tour de Force), trombone
- Chick Corea, piano
- Richard Davis, bass
- Elvin Jones (on Dizzy’s Blues), Mel Lewis (on “Blues for Max, “Tour de Force”), drums
As great as this music is, I would advise to supplement it with another live album, “Sweet Low, Sweet Cadillac.” The Impulse record label brings together recordings from three different concerts in May 1967, one in NYC and two in L.A. to provide another glimpse of what a Dizzy-led 1967 live performance was like. The playfulness and charm of the master is captured as well as some great music. This is the only recording I have where Dizzy sings, and, though not at the level as the 1967 Village Vanguard recordings, this is a treat not to be missed.
Track listing[from Wikipedia]
- All compositions by Dizzy Gillespie except as indicated
- “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac” – 7:17
- “Mas que Nada” (Jorge Ben) – 6:15
- “Bye” – 1:15
- “Something in Your Smile” (Leslie Bricusse) – 2:40
- “Kush” – 15:50
- Recorded at Memory Lane in Los Angeles, California on May 25 & 26, 1967
- Dizzy Gillespie – trumpet, vocals
- James Moody – tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, flute, vocals
- Mike Longo – piano
- Frank Schifano – bass
- Otis Candy Finch Jr. – drums