Dizzy Gillespie

Strictly Bebop

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In the early '70s, Capitol launched a jazz reissue series, like just about every record company in existence. This was the 13th volume of the Jazz Classics series, as apparently there was a lack of superstition and the producers decided not to follow the lead of hotel planners and skip this number. There is absolutely no way this album can be considered anything but historic, for a variety of reasons. Yet it is a presentation of material by three quite different bandleaders, and, if that isn't enough, each bandleader is featured in several different sessions with a wide variety of musicians involved. This is one aspect where the music acquires historic value, as for instance we have John Coltrane, still playing alto saxophone, as a member of the Dizzy Gillespie horn section; Sonny Rollins in the sax section of the Babs Gonzalez band; Dexter Gordon and Fats Navarro playing together in the Tadd Dameron band; and so on and so forth. Of course inconsistency sets in with so many different bands and sessions, but, overall, this is a fascinating and enjoyable collection. There are also quite a few vocals, not only by Gonzalez. Gillespie's regular vocalist, Joe Carroll, is on hand with his nonsense, the largely forgotten Kay Penton turns in a beautiful performance of "What's New?" with the Tadd Dameron band, and Rae Pearl is featured with another Dameron band in a kind of wordless exotic vocal that comes across as a bit over the top. Although be-bop was largely a style associated with small combos, this is a fine example of the type of music big bands could come up with when bop ideas are brought forward; some of the most enjoyable tracks aren't only bop, they are about bop, such as the cooking "Professor Bop" from Gonzalez, with a scintillating J.J. Johnson trombone solo.

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