Dizzy Gillespie

Bird Songs: The Final Recordings

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With this CD, Telarc squeezes another package out of a month-long salute to the jazz master's 75th birthday at New York's Blue Note jazz club, advertising them as Dizzy Gillespie's last recordings (they're not). What it is, is a mixed blessing, an obviously heartfelt tribute to an aging legend by several of his disciples, conservative to a fault in its adherence to the basic bop language that Dizzy and the album's co-honoree Charlie Parker helped invent. Dizzy's solos are like fallen swans; the chops simply weren't there anymore to execute his still-potent ideas, and reviewers in Dizzy's final years found his decline painful to report (many pretended not to notice). Otherwise, the excerpts here present a holiday for saxophones, with Benny Golson, David Sanchez, Clifford Jordan, Antonio Hart, Paquito D'Rivera and Jackie McLean taking turns on the front line, backed by the workmanlike trio of Danilo Perez on piano, George Mraz on bass and Lewis Nash or Kenny Washington on drums. Easily the best of the sax encounters is "Ornithology," where a speeding McLean and relatively relaxed D'Rivera engage in a high-flying dialogue, and the first part of Bobby McFerrin's vocal solo is so uncannily like late-period Dizzy that one is fooled. This album and its companions might have worked better as videos, where one could still bask in Dizzy's live presence and thus experience the atmosphere of this celebration more fully.

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