Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, directed by Slide Hampton with special guest Roy Hargrove – Dizzy’s Business – Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild MCG 11023, 66:00 ****:

From the review of the classic Diz session of 1947 also published today, we jump to this 2005 effort in memory of the puffy-cheeked bop pioneer & merrymaker. This is the second album from what in effect could be called Dizzy’s “dream band,” put together in 1998 by Grammy Award-winner trombonist-composer-arranger Slide Hampton.  [Things To Come was the first.] He built on Dizzy’s original big band charts, did new arrangements, and also was musical director of the whole enterprise. The project is made possible by the Pittsburgh-based Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, which is a multidiscipline, minority-directed art and learning center which has already issued a bunch of exciting jazz CDs. The band has now played all over the world.

Trumpeter Hargrove is only one of the top names in the 18-member band.  James Moody (aren’t we lucky to have this legendary jazz figure still around?)  is heard on tenor sax, flute and vocals; Frank West and Antonio Hart do alto sax and flute; Jimmy Heath on tenor sax; Randy Brecker, trumpet;  Mulgrew Miller, piano; and Dennis Mackrel on drums are just a portion of the talents assembled here. Italian-born vocalist Roberta Gambarini is the guest vocalist, and shares in a great duet with James Moody on Blue ‘N Boogie. Monk’s I Mean You gets a rather unMonkish but most enjoyable turn, running closer to such as Kenton and Basie than the usual orchestrations of the quirky pianist-composer. And if you dig that, catch the album closer – a white hot version of Monk’s Off Minor. The longest track is my favorite – a glorious new arrangement of Dizzy’s own lyrical classic Con Alma.

The band was recorded live during a four-night stand last year, and all involved are disciples of the Gillespie school of bebop.  They come across with the highest energy and enthusiasm and the recording quality is top flight.  Man, if you’re a big band fan starved for something neither old hat nor too atonal, the Dizzy All-Star Big Band is it!

Tracks: Dizzy’s Business, Con Alma, Blue ‘N Boogie, I Mean You, Without You – No Me, Hot House, Stardust, Tour de Force, Moody’s Groove, Morning of the Carnival, Off Minor.

– John Henry