Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scaling the dizzying heights of Gillespie's horn

Continuing my efforts to highlight the great musicians of bebop, today marks the 90th anniversary of the day trumpet great John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie took his first full-cheeked breath. (The image at left is a portrait of Gillespie taken by photographer Carl Van Vechten on Dec. 2, 1955).

Even jazz novices would recognize Diz for the remarkable, almost impossible reserves of air he maintained in those rubbery membranes around his mouth. Dizzy had a unique instrument in both looks and virtuosity. The bell of the horn pointed heavenward, he shepherded the early bebop jazz sound playing with all the legends of the form.

Gillespie also helped give birth to the Afro-Cuban jazz genre that merged Latin rhythms with bebop . He was a world traveler and a jazz ambassador, captivating audiences around the globe with his trademark style and play. Here is a 1958 live performance of A Night In Tunisia that I found on YouTube ...

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