Dizzy Gillespie's career soared with the surge of interest in bop, but after the failure of his independent Dee Gee label, his career was in the doldrums. In 1953, Norman Granz added the trumpeter to his successful Jazz at the Philharmonic all-star roster for tours and also signed him to a non-exclusive recording contract, where the producer was very open to most anything Gillespie wished to record. This seven-CD boxed set, a limited edition of 10,000 compiled by Mosaic, draws material from selected studio and live sessions made for Granz between 1954 and 1961, in addition to a number of studio dates made for Philips, all of which featured his working bands of the time.
The Verve tracks are a treasure trove, as a good deal of these performances were not reissued on CD until this compilation, with six selections appearing for the first time in this collection. Aside from some of the early novelty songs like "Hey Pete! Let's Eat More Meat," the calypso-flavored "Money Honey," and the perennial jive number "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac," which wear out their welcome quickly, the remaining material is very strong. Up and coming musicians in his bands include saxophonists Hank Mobley, Gigi Gryce, and Benny Golson, along with pianists Ray Bryant and Junior Mance. One of the obvious highlights is alto sax great Johnny Hodges' guest appearance on "Squatty Roo," which bolsters Gillespie's playing to its highest level. The addition of the relatively unheralded Leo Wright (who doubles on flute and alto sax) and young pianist Lalo Schifrin for a brief concert at the Museum of Modern Art marks the end of his association with Verve, which was sold by Granz that very same year.
Several of the earliest Philips sessions find Gillespie incorporating Brazilian influences and exploring the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, and even one extended work by Schifrin, "Mount Olive." Dizzy Gillespie & the Double Six of Paris features collaborations with a group of French vocalists arranged by Lalo Schifrin, with most of the songs utilizing Bud Powell, Pierre Michelot, and Kenny Clarke, with the trumpeter's regular group of the time on two selections. The Double Six of Paris' leader Michel Perin's vocalese interpretations of Charlie Parker's instrumental solos from Gillespie's well-known records of "Hot House" and "Groovin' High" are outstanding, as are the big-band arrangements recast for small group and voices. The final sessions feature James Moody and Kenny Barron, with Chris White and Rudy Collins. The tracks from Dizzy Goes Hollywood are enjoyable but far too brief, as most of them hover around the three-minute mark. Better are the songs from Original Score from the Cool World, an updated look at music Dizzy composed for the film, with fine arrangements by Tom McIntosh. This collection should be considered essential for any Dizzy Gillespie fan.