Possibilities for collecting Dizzy Gillespie material are as varied as harmonic inversions on a set of bebop choruses. These 20 tracks first showed up in this sequence circa 1994 as a release on the Atlantis label. The French Le Jazz imprint did a repackaging variation the following year, then again as the '90s came to a close and the legend of the man with the bent horn passed into another century. The original label perhaps sinking into the ocean, another firm calling itself Recall came up with a 2002 expansion, this time titled Professor Bebop and consisting of two discs, 45 tracks, and expanded portions of Gillespie silliness such as the carnivorous "Hey Pete! Let's Eat More Meat." In both cases the program sticks to material recorded between the mid-'40s and early-'50s, meaning that many of the popular compositions that show up in bebop fake books are unveiled in their full glory. The trumpeter's prominence in this "Dizzy Atmosphere" of progressive creativity earned him the "professor" nickname, also exploited on other available compilations with confusingly similar names such as Bebop Professor. In all cases the producer is faced with a similar juggling act, the balls in the air being Gillespie's mind-blowing relationship with alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, his ambitious attempts at large ensembles including a '40s orchestra, and his stage persona as a goofball and associated theme songs.
Some listeners may find the latter kind of material as far from the glories of "Groovin' High" as Gillespie's South Carolina birthplace is from southern Borneo. The trimmer Atlantis program tends to stick to more substantial material, including music recorded during one of Gillespie's first big band escapades. In slightly less than an hour he tangles with a half-dozen bass players alone, one of whom sings along with his arco solos as if munching on a horsefly. On drums there are legends of both the swing and bebop styles as well as relatively unknown journeymen. Tadd Dameron and Gil Fuller are among the fine arrangers Gillespie brought in to assist in managing the nearly 100 different musicians lucky and skilled enough to have been involved in these tracks. The first six solid bopping blasts are a curtain opening on a Shakespeare play; Dameron bounces his theme "Our Delight" until it becomes just that. A taste of Fuller's concoctions ensues, the leader's at times frantic horn figures sent to rescue a damsel from the mouth of a carnivorous beast half trombone, half baritone sax. Like a melodrama with a flabby last reel, the second half of the program flounders in comparison due to a reliance on Tin Pan Alley interpretations, even considering the habit both sidemen and leader have of tossing off short inventions with the intricacy of an evening raga. Even when based on similar chord changes, the new themes concocted by bebop henchmen were detached from mushy sentimentality in a way that inevitably must have made jazz seem like a threat to mankind, to some people anyway. What is essentially just aesthetic power transmits easily through any and despite too many repackagings.