Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet; Les Spann - flute, guitar; Junior Mance - piano; Art Davis - bass; Teddy Stewart - drums
A legendary figure in the history of jazz, trumpeter and bebop pioneer John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was a player of unparalleled facility as well as a consummate entertainer and charismatic raconteur who brought joy to audiences all over the world. A perennial favorite at George Wein's annual clambake in Rhode Island, his appearance at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival with a superb quintet featuring flutist-guitarist Les Spann, pianist Junior Mance, bassist Art Davis and drummer Teddy Stewart came just a few months after Gillespie's Verve release, Have Trumpet, Will Excite.
After addressing the Newport crowd with an ebullient "Howdeedoo!," Gillespie's group launches into a loose, jaunty shuffle blues to kick off their July 3rd set. Mance's spirited piano underscores the track with downhome feeling while Spann's bluesy guitar playing and Gillespie's inimitable high note work on trumpet add dazzle to the proceedings. From there they go into a Latinized version of Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," from the 1938 Broadway musical Leave it to Me, that features Dizzy on muted trumpet (catch the coy quote from "A Hunting We Will Go" in the midst of his solo) and has Stewart providing an Afro-Cuban pulse underneath. Shifting nimbly from Latin jazz to a bit of vocal bebop, Dizzy takes the mic to sing his jivey anthem "Ooo Shoo Be Doo Be" (originally sung by Joe Carroll on Dizzy's 1952 outing, The Champ). Their mellow rendition of the 1931 Broadway show tune "I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)" is underscored by Stewart's relaxed brushes playing and prominently features Spann's underrated flute work, which he plays in unison with Gillespie's muted trumpet on the front line. Dizzy's solo here is especially bracing while Spann responds with an invigorating solo of his own as he effortlessly double-times the tempo while blowing through the changes. Mance follows with a soul-drenched piano solo that adds layers of depth to this popular Harry Warren ditty that was covered during the '30s by the likes of Fanny Brice, Bing Crosby and the Boswell Sisters. Next up is a piece closely associated with Billie Holiday, the somber "My Man." Following a dramatic intro by the great trumpeter, the band settles into a loping swing groove on this melancholy torch song with Stewart again showcasing his deft brushwork and Spann returning to guitar. Along the way in his solo, Dizzy nonchalantly tosses in quotes from Count Basie's "Moten Swing" and Fred Fisher's "Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)."
They next launch into a spirited rendition of Dizzy's seminal experiment in Afro-Cuban jazz, "Manteca," a piece he co-wrote in 1947 with Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo and recorded later that year for the RCA label. Note Gillespie's playful quotes from "Tequila" at the intro to this infectious Afro-Cuban romp. Dizzy and his crew close their set with a rendition of Benny Golson's "Blues After Dark" with the trumpeter again dealing with the mute for extra sensitive expression. Mance's piano solo here is particularly sanctified while guitarist Spann offers some soulful excursions on the flute (perhaps the rarest double in jazz history). They built to a powerful crescendo with Gillespie blowing some open horn high notes that soar into the stratosphere. Then they appear to begin a a downhome blues before the impish trumpeter enters after only a few bars and sings, "Well….bye!," bringing the piece to an abrupt ending and leaving his playful mark on the laughing Newport audience.
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)