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Legends Live: Dizzy Gillespie Quintet

Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 101711  
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LEGENDS LIVE: DIZZY GILLESPIE QUINTET Dizzy Gillespie (tpt, voc 2 ); Leo Wright (a sax, fl); Lalo Schifrin (pn); Bob Cunningham (db); Mel Lewis (dr) JAZZHAUS 101711 (69:14) Live: Stuttgart 11/27/1961 and Frankfurt 11/29/1961 1

ELLINGTON The Mooche. GILLESPIE Con Alma I. Read more class="SUPER12">2 Oop-Shoo-Be-Doo-Be. 1 Kush. 1 Con Alma II. RONELL Willow Weep for Me. DUKE I Can’t Get Started

These two German performances by Dizzy Gillespie and an ad hoc quintet including the Argentinean pianist Lalo Schifrin came only two days apart but in two different cities—with different audiences to react to. Undoubtedly the most arresting piece on this disc, at least from the point of view of stylistic incongruity, is Gillespie playing a piece by Duke Ellington—moreover, a famous early piece from Ellington’s “jungle band” style of the 1920s. Predictably, Gillespie increases the original tempo a bit and then proceeds to recompose the piece, using its haunting, descending-chromatics theme as the basis for an original theme using the same basic chord structure and metric pattern. By the time Bob Cunningham begins his bass solo, “The Mooche” is in an entirely new musical world—but not a bebop world. Gillespie’s version makes it sound closer to the music of Charles Mingus, including a wild, descending trumpet lick in R&B style that leads into Wright’s alto sax solo. Here is yet another example (and there are hundreds I can think of) to illustrate the links between early jazz and R&B, modern jazz and R&B, and even swing with R&B. Although I don’t like pure R&B, I’ve always loved those pieces that leaned towards it while still retaining a true jazz feel…and conversely, one can hear that the music of Louis Jordan, often considered the father of R&B, actually had too much jazz in it for him to be successful in the 1950s. Go figure!

Anyway, back to The Mooche , Dizzy’s solo—played on open horn, which I really appreciated since this was a time when he was gravitating more and more towards playing muted—is really one of his finest solos, balancing the double-time bop licks he was known for with beautifully poised passages that are sparse in note selection, swinging so lightly that at times he is riding on the beat rather than pushing it (which was one of his trademarks). Schifrin’s piano solo channels George Shearing, Bud Powell, and other greats who preceded him, yet has little twists all his own. He plays one chorus consisting entirely of staccato chords, fractioning the rhythm in a delightful manner. I apologize for taking up so much time describing just the first piece on this disc, but in a sense it illustrates not only how well this band played together but also how Gillespie was moving in new directions flavored by reflections on older music. This reflection is certainly typified by two other pieces on this disc, Ann Ronell’s classic Willow Weep for Me and Vernon Duke’s evergreen I Can’t Get Started . Louis Armstrong steadfastly refused requests to play the latter tune because “that was Bunny’s [Berigan],” except once when he gave in and just about tore the place up, but Dizzy apparently had no such qualms—and we’re glad he didn’t. Gillespie’s version, after an intro and a brief statement of melody, completely reconstructs the piece as he did with The Mooche . In Willow , Watson—one of the 1940’s most exuberant alto players—switches to flute, and the rhythm is what gets made over here.

Gillespie’s own tune from the 1940s, Con Alma , is given two different performances, one from each of the two dates. Once again, this is a more reflective Gillespie, the tempo a bit slower than he played it way back when, but again the more relaxed stance of the band draws tremendously fine performances from Schifrin and the leader. In the first version, especially, Schifrin’s solo leads into a rhythmic change that sounds like a very convoluted Latin dance rhythm—but then, Dizzy was always attracted to Latin dance rhythms. The second version, despite its greater length, is actually played at a slightly quicker pace. Shifrin’s piano explores the piece completely differently each time, the second being more percussive, possibly influenced by the quicker tempo. Oop-Shoo-Be-Doo-Be is a bit of nonsense verse set to music by Gillespie, and he has fun with it, while Kush is more of a jam session tune.

The sound quality of these 1961 tapes is absolutely amazing and a tribute to Jazzhaus’s engineering staff. My lone complaint about this disc is that I wish they could have come up with one other number, lasting 10 minutes or less, to stretch out the CD a bit more. This was definitely one of Dizzy’s best bands of the 1960s.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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