For those of us born too late to have experienced it ourselves, and for everybody else who missed it as it actually happened, Diz’N’Bird At Carnegie Hall documents an awesome concert performance by a partnership whose influence on the history of jazz is inescapable and profound, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
Diz’N’Bird At Carnegie Hall provides fifteen selections from a Carnegie Hall performance by Dizzy Gillespie – with Joe Harris on drums, bassist Al McKibbon and pianist John Lewis (developing during this period into the eventual "Third Stream" musical master and leader of The Modern Jazz Quartet) as the rhythm section with an orchestra and special guests Parker and Ella Fitzgerald, which took place September 29 1947. Parker and Gillespie square off in the quintet format for the first five tracks, then Parker drops out and Gillespie and crew are joined by an orchestra whose members include tenor James Moody, Milt Jackson (Lewis’ partner in the MJQ) on vibes, and Gillespie’s frequent foil when in a Latin mood, percussion player Chano Pozo. (Though not one of the six Gillespie and orchestra performances with Fitzgerald survive on this release).
Suffice it to say that the five quintet numbers captured here present both Parker and Gillespie at or near the peak of their creative powers. After the Parker - Gillespie Quintet concluded a 1946 engagement in California, Gillespie returned home to New York City while Parker "took a rest" in a California hospital. Strengthened if not straightened out, Parker later returned to New York and by the summer of ’47 was leading bands at the Three Deuces, while at the same time Gillespie led his own bands at the Downbeat club right next door.
Diz’N’Bird At Carnegie Hall captures their first joint performance together since their California split. Their passionate and graceful playing on this program of "A Night In Tunisia," "Dizzy Atmosphere," "Groovin’ High," "Confirmation" and "Koko" helped establish the standard for the hard-driving, blue yet red-hot gestation of be-bop. During this period, Parker and Gillespie also helped "lift the bar" for improvisational standards for jazz musicians, viewed by many as the first such substantial shift since Louis Armstrong.
Tunes with Gillespie and orchestra include such popular and be-bop standards as "Salt Peanuts," the solo vehicles "One Bass Hit" (for McKibbon) and "Cubano-Be, Cubano-Bop" (an absolute tour-de-force for Pozo), "Hot House" and a scatback vocal bit of comic relief, "Oop-Pop-A-Da."
Such great songs played by great musicians would be enough, but there’s one more thing—the arrangements, which include the work of some of the finest jazz musicians and music theorists ever, such as Lewis, ("Toccata For Trumpet"), George Russell (Parker’s "Relaxin’ At Camarillo" and "Cubano-Be, Cubano-Bop"), Tadd Dameron (his originals "Hot House" and "Nearness," and the blues "Cool Breeze," which he co-wrote with Gillespie and Billy Eckstine), and Gil Fuller (his originals "Things To Come" and "One Bass Hit," which he co-wrote with Gillespie and bassist Ray Brown).
Diz ‘N’ Bird at Carnegie Hall completely leaves the listener with the sense that you have just walked among the jazz giants.