As has been its practice, the Verve label continues to repackage as much of its original material in as many combinations as it can get away with. Here it compiles cuts from a series of Dizzy Gillespie albums made from 1953 to 1961 in venues stretching from Los Angeles to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The compilation also finds Gillespie in a variety of settings, from his very exciting, blazing, and talented big bands from 1956 and 1957, with arrangements by the likes of Tadd Dameron -- blasting off on "The Champ," "Birk's Works," and "Jessica's Day" -- to small groups where he worked with Stan Getz, Roy Eldridge, the Oscar Peterson Trio, and other equally luminous contemporaries. He and Stan Getz get together for a fast-paced call and response, trading fours on "Exactly Like You" from 1953, with Gillespie getting that very special tonality from his muted trumpet. He left no doubt that he was the fastest gun around on the horn, and Getz wasn't all that far behind on tenor. Not everything is fast-paced. There was an effort to show the kinder, gentler side of Gillespie with such tunes as "Sometimes I'm Happy," with Gillespie doing some serious melodic improvising helped by one of his champions, Roy Eldridge. Missing from this collection is anything Afro-Cuban, even though Candido Camero has his conga on "A Night in Tunisia." Nonetheless, this is an excellent retrospective of a seminal jazz trumpeter during an especially fruitful and creative time in his career.
The Essential Dizzy Gillespie Review
by Dave Nathan