Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie Plays, Johnny Richards Conducts

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Clearly emulating his bebop brother Charlie Parker's example in New York a year before, Dizzy Gillespie journeyed to Hollywood to record standards with a full orchestra himself, under the baton of one-time Arnold Schoenberg student and future Kentonite Johnny Richards. Fittingly, Dizzy's orchestral record is a more ebullient piece of work than Bird's first string record, more reflective of the public man, and Richard's brightly lit arrangements are more complex and involved, even when laden with the usual panoply of strings and harp. There is even room for some Gillespie humor on the concluding "Swing Low Sweet Chariot"; after a schmaltzy string opening, it suddenly turns into an Afro-Cuban workout with vocals by the orchestra and Dizzy himself. The full-blooming Gillespie trumpets sounds absolutely terrific whether peeling off trademark rapid-fire bop licks or playing reflectively and/or heroically at ballad tempo. Paul Smith can be heard in a few piano solos, and Carlos Vidal kicks in his congas on "Million Dollar Baby" and "Sweet Chariot." This session is far more obscure than the Parker string albums, partly because it was made for the small West Coast Discovery label, and thus is one of the rarest items in the Gillespie canon (a near-mint copy will set you back about 300 dollars). But if you find it, you will be pleasantly surprised.