Studio: Jazz Icons/Reelin’ in the Years DVWW-JIDG
Video: 4:3, B&W
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Extras: 16 page illustrated booklet
Length: 85 min.
Filmed in first Belgium and then Denmark 12 years apart, we have on this DVD in the Jazz Icons series two contrasting appearances by jazz legend Gillespie. (As the producers observe in the informative booklet with each DVD: “We as Americans owe the various TV stations of Europe our thanks for filming and preserving our musical heritage.”) The first is a small quintet with Ray Brown on bass and saxist Sonny Stitt sharing the front line with Diz. The setup will remind some of the earlier duo of Diz & Bird, since Stitt was one of the first of the followers of Charlie Parker’s innovations. They do five tunes with not much introduction or blather except a jovial and enthusiastic vocal duo on On the Sunnyside of the Street. Diz plays frequently with a Harmon mute inserted in his rakishly-upended horn. Both sound and image are first-rate – one quickly forgets it’s mono and black and white.
The second video features Dizzy fronting the excellent Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band of 16 pieces, with Boland at the piano. The first thing noticeable is that fashions have changing considerably in the dozen years – Diz wears a big Afro, with a giant medallion around his neck, with Boland in a shirt that looks really loud even in black and white. The band is tight and swinging, with some great arrangements. It is thoroughly interracial, and has two drummers. The opener is Dizzy’s own gorgeous tune, Con Alma, in a superb arrangement by Lalo Schifrin. This one has some Latin touches but the real example of the major role Gillespie had in Afro-Cuban jazz is the energetic Gil Fuller arrangement of Manteca. The closing Things Are Here roars the session to a close at breakneck speed and has a flaming exchange between Dizzy and trumpeter Dusko Goykovich. Afterwards there’s an encounter with a little girl in the audience, showing the humorous side of this wonderful jazz figure whose hilarities didn’t reduce in the least his obvious seriousness about the music.
Tracklist: BELGIUM: Blues After Dark, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Loverman, Cocktails for Two, Blues Walk; DENMARK: Con Alma, The Brother K, Now Hear My Meanin’, Manteca, Let Me Outta Here, Things Are Here.
– John Henry