Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dizzy Gillespie: Salt Peanuts

The great jazz trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie, was one of the musicians at the forefront of the development of be-bop music in the Fifties. He was born John Birkes Gillespie in Cheraw, South Carolina, in 1917. Gillespie earned the moniker, “Dizzy,” for his ebullient personality and antics while performing.

 After hearing the great Roy Eldridge on the radio as a child, Gillespie decide then and there that he, too, wanted to be a jazz trumpeter. Gillespie got his start in New York City, in 1935, playing in the bands of Teddy Hill and Edgar Hayes. It was with the Teddy Hill Orchestra that Gillespie would make his first recording, “King Porter Stomp.” Gillespie stayed with Hill for one year and then freelanced with several bands for a while before finally winding up in Cab Callaway’s Orchestra in 1939. Calloway would fire Gillespie three years later following an altercation between the two men.

In 1943, Gillespie would join Earl Hines band which featured Charlie Parker and was beginning to create a new music which would become bebop. From there, it was on to the Billie Ekstine band, which also featured Parker. He would later leave the Ekstine band because he wanted to play in a smaller ensemble.

In the mid-Forties, Gillespie, Parker and other jazz musicians such as Max Roach, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and Kenny Clark would meet at clubs such as Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown to jam and experiment. It was at these jams that bebop was born.

Gillespie would become a member of the “Quintet,” the legendary be-bop supergroup formed in Toronto in 1953, with Parker, Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. Following his one-show tenure with the Quintet, Gillespie would form his own Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.

Among the best of the classic sides that Gillespie recorded in the Forties and Fifties are: “A Night in Tunisia,” “Salt Peanuts,” “Hot House,” “Manteca,” “Perdido,” and “Night and Day.”

Gillespie’s best albums begin with the Quintet. His “Salt Peanuts” from the album “Live at Massey Hall” is perhaps the best moment of many brilliant moments on that live recording of the Quintet’s only show. Other fine Gillespie albums include, “Dizzy In Paris” (1953), “For Musicians Only” (1958), ”Gillespiana” (1960), “Groovin’ High” (1953).

After Gillespie had had his fill of bebop, he became interested in Afro-Cuban music. Gillespie died in 1993.