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1953-1954 the Very Best Of

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Album Review

Volume ten in the Classics Dizzy Gillespie chronology documents this trumpeter's recording activities from December 9, 1953 to June 8, 1954. As one of producer Norman Granz's many star players, Diz was able to organize both hard bop and Cuban-styled bop bands comprised of able improvisers. The opening track, "Impromptu," is a nearly-eight-minute jam taken at 75mph by the "Dizzy Gillespie-Stan Getz Sextet" with lightning-fingered pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis (heard here in an unusually rambunctious mood); bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Max Roach. The 20-piece big band assembled on May 24, 1954 recorded a piquant 16-and-a-half-minute "Manteca" suite in five movements using arrangements by Chico O'Farrill. The personnel listing is extraordinary, with J.J. Johnson, Ernie Royal and Quincy Jones in the brass section with Diz; Hilton Jefferson, Hank Mobley, Lucky Thompson and Danny Bank in the reed department, as well as two bassists and four expert Latin American percussionists augmenting the kit drumming of Charlie Persip. On the following day, four members of this mammoth ensemble returned to form a quintet; in addition to pianist Wade Legge and bassist Lou Hackney, Hank Mobley was the designated saxophonist for this assignment, a relaxed blowing session with two vocals by the leader. Gillespie put together an octet for the next date, which took place on June 3, 1954, using flautist Gilbert Valdez and a lively Latino rhythm section including conga master Candido Camero. Four titles cut on June 8, 1954 by the Dizzy Gillespie Sextet featured trombonist Jimmy Cleveland in addition to the five men who comprised the Quintet from two weeks earlier. (Although a note in the enclosed discography claims that Cleveland is omitted on "Rumbola," he is clearly audible throughout). This last session, and indeed this entire segment of Gillespie's career, resulted in substantial music of great passion and depth. "Blue Mood" is particularly satisfying because Gillespie, like Charlie Parker, was an adept bluesman.


Born: 21 October 1917 in Cheraw, SC

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Dizzy Gillespie's contributions to jazz were huge. One of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time (some would say the best), Gillespie was such a complex player that his contemporaries ended up copying Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead, and it was not until Jon Faddis' emergence in the 1970s that Dizzy's style was successfully recreated. Somehow, Gillespie could make any "wrong" note fit, and harmonically he was ahead of everyone in the 1940s, including Charlie Parker. Unlike Bird, Dizzy was...
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