Even people who don't listen to jazz know who Dizzy Gillespie is. His black beret and cock-eyed trumpet were a familiar image of cool to a generation of hipsters who grew up idolizing the jazzbo lifestyle. And of course, along with Charlie Parker and others who gathered at Minton's, he helped shape the direction that jazz would take after the Swing Era. But he was one of the few who managed to make a lucrative and distinguished career out of playing jazz long after most people had turned their attention elsewhere.
Surprisingly, Dizzy's work with Parker tends to overshadow everything else. His work after the forties was hit or miss, sometimes lacking the fire and focus of the bebop and big band years. Although he recorded several fine sessions with various artists, he never recorded the classic album that many thought he would have had in him.
This compilation for Gillespie is certainly welcome, as it samples the historic early recordings with Cab Calloway, the treasure trove of material with Parker, and the fiery big band with Chano Pozo. It also picks out the best of the later recordings with different ensembles. Dizzy never had any problems getting great players to join him, and many star players from yesteryear, as well as established players today who were just getting their wings, appear here.
If there's a problem with this compilation, it's that there's a big hole where the sixties should bevirtually nothing from the decade is represented. Surely Dizzy's run for president should be documented in some way, and James Moody, Gillespie's saxophonist at the time, is pictured in the liner notes but not featured on the recordings. Certainly Gillespie turned out some worthwhile work during this decade, but it's hard to quibble when including something from this era would inevitably mean leaving out one of the classics.
Dizzy liked his jazz bold and brash, jettisoning ballads in favor of breakneck bebop and world music excursions. Although he was one of jazz music's greatest ambassadors, traveling to foreign countries and absorbing the music of different lands, there's a good chance he may be underrepresented in many people's collections. Kenny Mathieson has suggested that if Diz had died early like Parker and other musicians, his stature might be greater today. This double CD set makes the case for what most of us knew all along: John Birks Gillespie was one of the greats.
Track Listing: Disc One: 1. King Porter Stomp 2. Pickin
Personnel: Dizzy Gillespie: trumpet; various others.
Year Released: 2005
| Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream