Make a shortlist of your favorite, classic Dizzy Gillespie songs and the odds are that more than a few of them will share a connection to arranger Gil Fuller. Gillespie worked closely with Fuller during the height of his big band period in the mid to late ‘40s, resulting in numerous essential recordings. Their collaboration also produced a handful of eventual standards on which Gillespie and Fuller share songwriting credit, such as “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo.” By 1965, Dizzy wasn’t working with Fuller in an official capacity; the trumpeter toured and recorded on his own while the West Coast-based arranger headed up an organization called the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra. In addition to playing that year’s festival, the group also managed to bang out two studio albums featuring Dizzy and tenor saxophonist James Moody - another Gillespie big band alumnus who worked under Fuller in the ‘40s.
What results are 75 minutes of music spread over 20 different songs, most of them Fuller originals perfectly suited to the explosive, brass-tastic sound that drove so many fans to Dizzy during his early heyday. The orchestra possesses a towering sound worthy of the talented soloists like Harry Edison, Buddy Collette and Bill Green. Fuller’s arrangements on the bebop and more Latin-tinged numbers are certainly worthy of the sessions he oversaw that featured Gillespie with Chano Pozo all those years ago. Highlights include the aforementioned “Tin Tin Deo,” along with the Fuller compositions “Blues For a Debutante,” “Big Sur” and “Latin Lady.” While Dizzy’s solo work still sounds impeccable at this
relatively late point in his career, Fuller’s orchestra absolutely steals the show.
A few of the tracks, however, detract somewhat from the proceedings. The album contains a small amount of soul-jazz or boogaloo numbers (“Be’s That Way,” “Sweets For My Sweet,”) that seem to have been selected for no reason other than to make a seemingly obligatory acknowledgement of the direction jazz had begun to take in the commercial arena, circa 1965.
Of course, entry-level fans should definitely first seek out Gillespie’s earlier recordings he made with Fuller and Chano Pozo, as well as the classic Afro
(Norgran, 1954). However, major Dizzy-philesas well as fans of Stan Kenton and Machitowill undoubtedly spin this disc until it requires replacement. Believe me, you’ll want this one on the stack of CDs you use to show off your sound system during dinner parties. Your guests won’t be disappointed.