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The Champ

Dizzy Gillespie

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Album Review

An early LP on Savoy that gathers Dizzy Gillespie's small-group recordings from 1951-52, The Champ has a lot to recommend it — songs, sidemen, and performances. With just one exception, each of the selections are drawn from quintet or sextet dates, boasting work by Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Percy Heath, and Stuff Smith in addition to an early appearance from John Coltrane (he made his debut with Diz, though not here). On the title track, a six-minute jam released as a two-part single, Gillespie plays furiously and tenor Budd Johnson contributes a great squawking solo. "Birk's Works," one of Dizzy's finest compositions, gets its first commercial recording, while Stuff Smith's violin solo gives "Caravan" exactly the exotic touch it needs to lift it above competing versions. Diz and Joe Carroll trade vocals on "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and bop culture meets gospel for "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac."

Biography

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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