Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet, vocals
Mike Longo - piano
George Davis - guitar
Red Mitchell - bass
David Lee - drums
American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, singer, and composer Dizzy Gillespie was a true pioneer. Gillespie scaled the heights with harmonic and rhythmic innovations in the 1940s that played a key role in transforming the musical language of jazz into thoroughly original expression that captivated audiences worldwide. Along with Charlie Parker, Gillespie pioneered the development of "Bebop" and later introduced African and Cuban elements to American jazz, widely expanding the scope of the musical genre.
Gillespie was also a vibrant personality that in many ways, seemed to encapsulate the best possibilities of an American popular artist. His effervescent personality, which included a wide variety of facial expressions and a natural gift for humor, made Gillespie a pure entertainer as much as an accomplished musician. Although he was endlessly funny and good-natured, his playing was full of virtuosic invention and deadly serious. He was a rare commodity in which these seemingly opposite facets coexisted. In the later years, his outlandish dress, outrageous personality and keen sense of humor seemed to attract more media attention than his music, which remained highly emotional and full of intensity for those who listened.
This performance, recorded on the final night of one of the most legendary bills Bill Graham ever presented at the Fillmore East, opening for Ray Charles, captures Gillespie and his Quintet in remarkable form. Bill Graham was a renowned lover of Latin music and perhaps for that reason, Gillespie may have been encouraged to put a heavy emphasis on that material, which he was also recording for the Perception label around that time. This performance is a captivating mix of jazz rhythms and melodies laced with Latin-tinged grooves. Gillespie's theatrical sense of humor is also on display here, both in his monologues and near the end of the performance, where he toys with the audience using musical communication alone.
Following the stage introduction, the set kicks off with a perfect representation of the way Dizzy kept growing as a musician, veering into a Cuban/Caribbean groove. Mike Longo's fluid dexterity on piano is particularly impressive here. Dizzy sums it up well himself when he first addresses the audience immediately afterwards by saying "Partytime!" Before continuing with more adventurous fare, Gillespie exhibits his sense of humor with a monologue that is not only funny and warm, but proves he had quite the vocabulary (and intelligence). The set continues with "Matrix, an adventurous track from Gillespie's recently issued Real Thing album for the Perception label. The recordings he made for Perception, including his homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, "Brother K," and "Closer" show the Gillespie Quintet exploring new territory. The music has minimal comparisons to the traditional bop-jazz sound that cemented Gillespie's reputation. Although not overtly funky, the music does reflect the musicians' awareness of funk grooves. This material has a street-wise ghetto sound, but unlike Miles Davis during this same era, retains a strong sense of melody. Unlike Miles, whose most emotional music could be intentionally threatening and sonically dense at this time, the Gillespie Quintet conveys equal emotion by enchanting the audience with intricate playing and melodic expression. Mike Longo, who plays some astounding expanded piano lines, is the real strength here. He works perfectly with Red Mitchell's bass lines and as a foil for Dizzy's bright lyrical trumpet.
Prior to the set closing composition, "Kush," Gillespie delivers an interesting monologue elaborating on this tribute to "Mother Africa." One of Gillespie's most respected compositions, this remains a perfect vehicle for all the band members to do their thing and features spellbinding trumpet work. After 10 minutes or so, the audience is momentarily fooled into thinking the song is over, but after a brief pause to savor the applause, the song carries on for another two minutes with even more emotion and intensity. The set concludes with a very brief bluesy outro theme, in which Dizzy blurts out "Bye!" before they exit the stage to thunderous applause.
Over the last century, jazz has evolved into a major world musical form, played and appreciated in nearly every nation on the planet. Dizzy Gillespie's harmonic and rhythmic innovations had an enormous impact on virtually every subsequent trumpeter, both by the example of his playing and as a mentor to younger musicians. His specially made bell-uplifted trumpet was as unique as his ability to uplift the listener.