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Savoy’s 3-CD collection covers a lot of territory. The personnel listing is a who’s who of bebop pioneers. Dizzy Gillespie would play it fierce and brazen one moment, then muted and sweet the next. What you got was the real deal. Trading phrases with Slam Stewart, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, James Moody or Slim Gaillard, the trumpeter would move things right along. He accomplished much and brought along many rising stars. The years 1945 to 1952 were not without controversy. It was then that bebop separated jazz fans and jazz artists into two camps: modern and traditional. Looking back, we realize that the jazz umbrella was simply stretched: not divided, as it was then argued intensely. The earlier, traditional and swing years saw innovation; but no one envisioned “poppity pop goes the motorcycle” and “oop-bop-sh’bam, a-kloog-a-mop” or “salt peanuts, salt peanuts.” Through it all, Gillespie espoused a natural style, where nonsense syllables and improvised trumpet artistry combined to put a different light on what makes jazz. His big band of 1946 included John Lewis, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Kenny Dorham, Ray Brown and Kenny Clarke. Blazing-fast escapades, such as that which formed “Things to Come,” were allowable in Gillespie’s organization. Other big band leaders would not permit the extreme antics; and Gillespie could certainly tear it up. At times, it seemed as if he were putting us on. Serious strings and the Johnny Richards Orchestra opens “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” before Gillespie and his bebop partners take charge in their own sweet way. The same mixture of free-flying bop and orchestral majesty bites into “Lullaby of the Leaves” and “I Found a Million Dollar Baby.” Many of the selections on disc two feature a solemn Gillespie horn interpreting ballads with the graceful Richards orchestra. They’re uneven, however, and do not place the trumpeter in his best light. Things work much better at a driving tempo when Gillespie employs vivid reminders of the punch that came along with bebop. Not coincidentally, the clave pattern fit perfectly with this new style. As the years passed, Gillespie was to demonstrate his love of the “Latin tinge” repeatedly. Odyssey features the rather young voice of Sarah Vaughan, singing “Lover Man” in 1945 with Gillespie’s quintet. Albinia Jones and Alice Roberts sing the blues with passion. Joe Carroll imitates the vocal style of Louis Armstrong on “Pops’ Confessin’,” and moves through various moods with other selections to suite the occasion. John Coltrane, unnoticed, sits in for two 1951 selections. The best track of the collection, “The Champ,” with Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, and Budd Johnson in some anxious bebop moments, combines parts one and two of the piece, which were originally issued as a 2-sided single. The collection includes a 30-page, comprehensive booklet with insightful liner notes by Dan Morgenstern.
Track Listing: Blue
Personnel: Dizzy Gillespie- trumpet, vocal; Benny Harris, Stan Fishelson, Tommy Allison, Dave Burns, Ray Orr, Talib Daawud, John Lynch, Kenny Dorham, Elmon Wright- trumpet; Walter Robertson- trumpet, trombone; Alton Moore, Leon Comegys, Charles Greenlea, Jack Carmen, Ollie Wilson, Trummy Young, Dick Kenney, Henry Coker, Harold Smith, Gordon Thomas, J.J. Johnson- trombone; John Graas- French horn; Gene Sedric- clarinet; Howard Johnson, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker, Johnny Bothwell, Hal McKusick, John Brown- alto saxophone; John Coltrane- alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Bill Graham- alto saxophone, baritone saxophone; James Moody, Ray Abrams, Warren Luckey, Dexter Gordon, Al Cohn, Jack McVea, Joe Magro, Don Byas, Budd Johnson- tenor saxophone; Leo Parker, Serge Chaloff- baritone saxophone; Pee Wee Moore- baritone saxophone, trombone; John Lewis, Wynton Kelly, Frank Paparelli, Clyde Hart, Dodo Marmarosa, Ike Carpenter, Paul Smith, Sammy Price, Al Haig, Hank Jones- piano; Milt Jackson- piano, organ, vibraphone, vocal; Slim Gaillard- guitar, vocal, piano; Chuck Wayne, Remo Palmieri, Steve Jordan, Leonard Ware, Kenny Burrell- guitar; Bam Brown- bass, vocal; Ray Brown, Slam Stewart, Jack Cascales, Percy Heath, Bernie Griggs, Murray Shipinski, Oscar Pettiford, Curly Russell, Oscar Smith- bass; Kansas Fields, Irv Kluger, Cozy Cole, Joe Harris, Shelly Manne, Kenny Clarke, Al Jones, Specs Wright, Sid Catlett, Hal West, Zutty Singleton, Art Blakey- drums; Carlos Vidal Bolado- congas; Sarah Vaughan, Albinia Jones, Gil Fuller, Alice Roberts, Joe Carroll, Melvin Moore, Freddy Strong- vocal; Stuff Smith, Walter Edelstein, Victor Arno, Jack Shukman- violin; Cy Bernhard, Eleanor Slatkin, Felix Slatkin- cello; Askell Issenbuth- flute; Philip Shukin- alto flute; Harry Steinfield- oboe; Shirley Thompson- bassoon; Barbara Whitney- harp.