Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet; Leo Wright - alto sax, flute; Junior Mance - piano; Art Davis - bass; Al Dreares - drums
Emcee Willis Connover kicks off this concert explaining to the Friday night Newport crowd the difference between a jazz audience and a rock 'n' roll audience: "A jazz audience sits, even in the rain, quiet, appreciative, intelligent. And the rock 'n' roll fan finds that he has absolutely nothing to do but sit there cutting up his seat with his knife. And of course, there is some difference in the music too." And to demonstrate the difference, they bring up the winner of the 1960 Down Beat Critics Poll for trumpet, one John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie.
Diz begins with biting sarcasm -- "We'd like to thank you ladies and gentlemen for that tumultuous ovation. We sincerely thank both of you" - before launching into a brand new tune entitled "Norm's Norm." A swinger with a boppish bent, this upbeat offering features Leo Wright on a bracing alto sax solo. Gillespie's solo is more deliberate, merely flirting with the stratospheric register that he lived in during his tenure on 52nd Street during the late '40s with his musical partner and eminent constituent, Charlie Parker. Dizzy does eventually build to a bristling peak, flaunting his high-note prowess before giving way to Junior Mance's boppish ebullience on piano. Next up is "Lorraine," Gillespie's musical portrait of his wife Lorraine Willis-Gillespie, who for years had been a grounding influence on the clown prince of bebop. A kind of Latin flavored march, it features Dizzy on muted trumpet blending contrapuntally with Wright's floating flute lines as Al Dreares underscores the proceedings on brushes.
Jesse Stone's blues and gospel-tinged original "I'm Going Fishing" gives Dizzy a chance to entertain the crowd with his inimitable good-humored vocals. Art Davis then kicks off Dizzy's anthemic "A Night in Tunisia" with his grooving bass intro. This exceptionally swinging rendition of perhaps Gillespie's most famous tune is highlighted by assertive solos from Dizzy himself (including the stunning trumpet break) and Wright on alto sax.
Shifting back to entertainer mode, Dizzy delights the Newport crowd once again with his jivey beatnik ditty "Oop-Shoo-Bee-Doo-Bee" (originally recorded with Joe Carroll on vocals in 1952). Diz is as humorous here as his trumpet solo is dazzling. Wright steps forward to deliver some beautifully lyrical flute work on the jazz standard "Autumn Leaves" in combination with Mance's piano and Davis's bass before the piece develops into a blues-drenched midtempo toe-tapper powered by Dreares' deft shuffle swing pulse on the kit with brushes.
The Gillespie composition "Wheatleigh Hall," which he first recorded in 1957 with sax titan Sonny Rollins, is a showcase for the tragically under-recorded and under-recognized bop drummer Al Dreares, a childhood pal of trumpeter Fats Navarro whose scant discography includes sessions with pianists Mal Waldron and Randy Weston, saxophonists Freddie Redd and Frank Strozier and trombonist Bennie Green. Dreares, whose playing is powerful and swinging throughout this set with Gillespie, unleashes some slickly syncopated playing on the kit here with both sticks and brushes, lighting a fire under the band with his insistent ride cymbal work while 'dropping bombs' on the bass drum. Gillespie is featured on a scorching muted trumpet solo on this exhilarating romp and Wright follows with some heat of his own on alto sax. Mance also turns in a dazzling piano solo against the surging pulse of Davis' urgent upright bass lines and Dreares' supple brushwork. Dreares then puts an exclamation point on this runaway jam with a dynamic, unaccompanied drum solo at the tag.
The influence of Mother Africa is readily apparent on Dizzy's "Kush," the entrancing 12/8 set-closer which he premiered at this 1960 Newport Jazz Festival and would document the following year on 1961's An Electrifying Evening with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet,, recorded live for Verve at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on February 9, 1961. He would also later record the decidedly African flavored number on 1967's Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac for Impulse! Wright's dazzling alto sax playing on this number is enough to spark memories of Gillespie's erstwhile frontline partner, Charlie Parker (who died five years earlier on March 12, 1955).
Born on October 21, 1917 in Cheraw, South Carolina, Gillespie began on trombone, switched to trumpet at age 12 and began playing professionally at age 18, inspired by the exuberant Swing Era trumpeter Roy Eldridge. He broke into the business with the Frankie Fairfax band based in Philadelphia and in 1937 replaced his trumpet hero Eldridge in the Teddy Hill Orchestra, making his recording debut on a version of Jelly Roll Morton's "King Porter Stomp." Gillespie joined Cab Calloway's band in 1939 and he remained for two years, eventually getting fired by the bandleader in 1941 for allegedly throwing a spitball at Calloway (though trumpeter Jonah Jones later admitted to being the culprit). Dizzy subsequently freelanced in a number of situations, including bands led by Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Charlie Barnet and Duke Ellington, before joining Earl Hines' adventurous orchestra in 1942. (Gillespie wrote his most famous composition, "A Night in Tunisia," while employed by Hines).
After joining Billy Eckstine's bebop big band in 1943, Gillespie found himself playing alongside such future stars as Charlie Parker, Leo Parker, Art Blakey, Wardell Gray, Oscar Pettiford, Fats Navarro, Sonny Stitt and Sarah Vaughan. He recorded with Eckstine in 1944 and that year also participated in a seminal bebop session with tenor sax great Coleman Hawkins that included Dizzy's composition "Woody 'n You." In 1945, Gillespie teamed up with Charlie Parker (whom he often referred to as "my worthy constituent" or "the other half of my heartbeat") to revolutionize the jazz world with such rhythmically advanced numbers as "Groovin' High," "Shaw Nuff" and "Salt Peanuts," setting the tone for the bebop movement of the late '40s. Gillespie later put together a big band featuring Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo that pioneered the melding of jazz and Afro-Cuban music through such vehicles as "Manteca" and "Cubana Be/Cubana Bop." He had a few reunions with his former partner Charlie Parker, including the legendary 1953 Massey Hall concert in Toronto, Canada) and subsequently toured with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic revue, engaging in trumpet battles with various players, including his role model Roy Eldridge. Between 1956 and 1958, Gillespie functioned as a kind of international ambassador for jazz, traveling on several U.S. State Department-sponsored tours to Europe, South America and the Far East. These trips abroad whetted his appetite for music of other cultures, serving as a springboard for later investigations into world music.
Dizzy led several small groups through the '60s and in the '70s participated in a string recordings for Norman Granz's Pablo label, including 1975's The Trumpet Kings at Montreux with fellow trumpeters Clark Terry and Roy Eldridge. Though Dizzy's chops were diminished by the '80s, he continued playing and touring through the decade with his United Nations Orchestra featuring an international cast including Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez, Cuban drummer Ignacio Berrora, Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi, Brazilian singer Flora Purim, Puerto Rico percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo and Puerto Rican saxophonist David Sanchez. His last two recordings, taken from a month-long engagement at New York's Blue Note jazz club in 1992, feature all-star lineups and various special guests and are titled To Bird with Love and To Diz with Love. He died a year later, on January 7, 1993, at his home in Englewood, New Jersey. (Milkowski)