Dizzy Gillespie

Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac

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A strangely popular album for Dizzy Gillespie, Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac represents a period in his career where he was adapting to the times, keeping his goof factor on board, and individually playing as well as he ever had. This club date, recorded over two days circa May of 1967 from The Memory Lane in Los Angeles, has Gillespie with soon to be longtime partners James Moody and Mike Longo, joking and jiving with their audience, presenting a relatively short program of modified pop tunes and one of the trumpeter's most revered compositions. Drummer Otis "Candy" Finch is more than up to the task, but electric bass guitarist Frank Schifano is the weak link, playing basic lines, or unfortunately out of tune. Longo moves from acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes, while Moody's tenor or alto sax and flute are as distinctive as ever. Gillespie's voice, inspired by Eddie Jefferson or perhaps Billy Eckstine, was never meant for singing, but is delightful in his attempt. "Kush" is the track that, over nearly 16 minutes, starts with Dizzy's preachings about Mother Africa and Moody's wavering flute, but Schifano's insistently off-key ostinato mars what is otherwise Gillespie's bright and fluid trumpet sparring with Moody's alto in louder, then softened dynamics and Longo's dainty piano chords. The band modifies Jorge Ben's "Mas Que Nada," made popular by Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, into a boppish swinging and swaying tune with Latin inferences. The title track, Gillespie's singularly unique and famous adaptation of the gospel song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" has he and Moody chatting back and forth in campy ghetto and Afro-Cuban vocal antics gleaned from Chano Pozo, degenerating into nothing, then a modest vocal line. While somewhat disingenuous, Gillespie's vocal attempt at being a romantic troubadour during "Something in Your Smile" cannot be taken seriously, but is somehow quaint and endearing. This is not an essential listing in the vast discography of such a great jazz artist, but remains a curiosity in his collection, especially considering the two-day time frame where much more music could have been considered to be issued. It is not to be completely ignored, but less worthy than many of his other seminal groundbreaking recordings.

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