An early LP on Savoy that gathers Dizzy Gillespie's small-group recordings from 1951-52, The Champ has a lot to recommend it -- songs, sidemen, and performances. With just one exception, each of the selections are drawn from quintet or sextet dates, boasting work by Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Percy Heath, and Stuff Smith in addition to an early appearance from John Coltrane (he made his debut with Diz, though not here). On the title track, a six-minute jam released as a two-part single, Gillespie plays furiously and tenor Budd Johnson contributes a great squawking solo. "Birk's Works," one of Dizzy's finest compositions, gets its first commercial recording, while Stuff Smith's violin solo gives "Caravan" exactly the exotic touch it needs to lift it above competing versions. Diz and Joe Carroll trade vocals on "On the Sunny Side of the Street," and bop culture meets gospel for "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac."
The Champ Review
by John Bush