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Dizzy Gillespie Big Band: Showtime at the Spotlite

David Rickert By

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Dizzy Gillespie's big band fused the intricacies of bebop with the high-powered riffing into a short lived but exciting outfit. This concert, recorded on 52nd Street in 1946, is one of few occasions to hear the trumpeter's band live and in its prime. A word of caution, though: this CD is a result of amateur taping (by Jerry Newman, no less) and the usual limitations occur, although the sound quality is very good and not too distracting.

Beyond that, this was a skilled outfit capable of whipping up some fierce excitement on the bandstand. A look at the personnel should be all that you need to know: vibraphonist Milt Jackson, saxophonist James Moody, pianist Thelonious Monk, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Kenny Clarke are all there to lend their considerable talents to the band.

The arrangements are pure big band, courtesy of Gil Fuller, who poached some of Tadd Dameron's arrangements from the Billy Eckstine band. However, the soloing shows the advanced concepts of bebop in a compelling combination. This was not music to dance to, and may have turned off most listeners, but was, rather, a display of artistry, paving the way for jazz to be listened to rather than just as background music for cocktail parties.

There are two CDs worth of music here, and many duplicate tunes from successive nights. Jackson is in fine form on "The Man I Love" and the band is spectacular on the frenzied "Things To Come," represented here in three different versions. Not everything in this experiment works; Monk's "'Round Midnight" gets the big band treatment, but it falls flat compared to the pianist's own versions.

Gillespie's big band eventually became pioneers in the Afro-Cuban movement, creating even more exciting music. However, this is a chance to hear the band in its infancy, trying out new ideas with the chops to back it up. Gillespie's big band music is underrepresented on disc; it's good to have this one out there.

Track Listing: CD1: Shaw 'Nuff/I Waited For You; Our Delight; Groovin' High; The Man i Love; Ray's Idea; Cool Breeze; Oo Bop Sh'Bam; 'Round Midnight; Second Balcony Jump; Day By Day; Convulsions; Woody 'n You; Lazy Mood; One Bass Hit; Things To Come; I Waited For You. CD2: Shaw 'Nuff/I Waited For you; Our Delight; Second Balcony Jump; Things To Come; The Man I Love; Don't Blame Me; Grosvenor Square; One Bass Hit; Things To Come; I Waited For You.

Personnel: Dizzy Gillespie: trumpet; Dave Burns: trumpet; Elmon Wright: trumpet; Johnny Lynch: trumpet; Talib Dawud: trumpet; Alton "Slim" Moore: trombone; Leon Comegys: trombone; Gordon Thomas: trombone; Howard Johnson: alto saxophone; John Brown: alto saxophone; James Moody: tenor saxophone; Ray Abrams: tenor saxophone; Sol Moore: baritone saxophone; Thelonious Monk: piano; Milt Jackson: vibes; Ray Brown: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums.

Title: Showtime at the Spotlite | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Uptown Records

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