Dizzy Gillespie


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Here's a case where strict adherence to a chronology bears fascinating fruit. Classics 888 focuses only upon January and February of 1945, a small chunk of time during which Dizzy sat in with certain wild bands and made his very first recordings as a leader. On January 9th, a number of musicians from different stylistic backgrounds showed up late to record with Oscar Pettiford, who eventually admitted that he hadn't any idea of what they were going to use for material. Pianist Clyde Hart offered to slap a few charts together on the spot. "Something for You," known elsewhere as "Max Is Making Wax," came out brisk and boppish with powerful blowing from Don Byas, Diz and swing trombonist Benny Morton, who seems to have worked extra hard to fit in with this fast crowd. "Worried Life Blues," composed by blues and boogie-woogie pianist Big Maceo Merriweather, featured vocalist Rubberlegs Williams, who growled, howled and occasionally barked in a way that brings to mind one of Fats Waller's favorite habitual exclamations: "Get away from here!" "Empty Bed Blues," while attributed to Oscar Pettiford, is clearly a Bessie Smith cover. Diz growls ominously with his horn behind the vocal. Retaining some of the players from the Pettiford group, Dizzy's Sextet sounded very well-organized by comparison. The trumpeter's handling of "I Can't Get Started" is breathtakingly beautiful. Tadd Dameron's irresistible "Good Bait" sounds as solid and immediate as the day it was made. In his autobiography, To Be or Not to Bop, Gillespie said he had "composed a fast thing, and just named it ""Be Bop"" later on...it didn't have a name before the record date." "Be Bop" is one brilliant and bracing piece of work, surprisingly put together. After ripping through a whole lot of wild changes, each player contributes a brief note or two for a composite coda. Before the month of January had ended, a famously weird session came together and then blew apart at the seams. Nominally led by Clyde Hart, it began with several vocals by a louder-than-ever Rubberlegs Williams. Apparently seeking to maintain his edge, the blues shouter consumed many cups of coffee, unaware of the fact that the caffeine in question had been steeply fortified with Benzedrine by the ever-resourceful Charlie Parker. At first, Legs sounded only marginally manic, humorously gruff in the throes of his boisterous R&B showmanship. By the time they got around to recording "That's the Blues," the singer must have been completely geeked, as he began his vocal at full intensity, with nowhere left to build to. Halfway through the record, his voice started to disintegrate as Legs approached the vocal intensity of Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Dizzy swears that Legs never drank or smoked, while Trummy Young insisted the singer was also full of whiskey, which would have mixed horribly with the amphetamine. In any case, after he passed into a state of chemically induced psychosis, Williams was led away and the ensemble magically re-grouped itself as James "Trummy" Young's All-Stars. The mood changed to a very hip level of calmness as Trummy sang pleasant melodies in a soft and friendly voice. The contrast between this and the previously hard-hitting rhythm and blues material -- recorded by all but one of the same musicians on the same day -- is astonishing, as is the interplay between Sarah Vaughan and Ben Webster on "All Too Soon," between Diz and Dexter Gordon on "Blue 'n Boogie" and most of all, between Bird and Diz. Cherish every nuance of these early recordings of "Groovin' High" and "All the Things You Are"; they are intimate works of great poetic depth, existing at the heart of these amazing collaborative friendships.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:27
2 2:50
3 2:30
4 2:30
5 3:05
6 2:58
7 2:58
8 3:08
9 2:50
10 3:09
11 2:55
12 2:18
13 2:49
14 2:52
15 2:42
16 2:43
17 2:53
18 3:10
feat: Tony Scott
20 2:34
21 2:56
22 2:40
23 2:47
24 2:46
blue highlight denotes track pick