Dizzy Gillespie – Night in Tunisia – Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Milt Jackson, vibes; J.C. Heard, drums; Ray Brown, bass; et al. – Bluebird/Legacy

by | Aug 29, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Dizzy Gillespie – Night in Tunisia – Dizzy Gillespie: trumpet; Milt Jackson: vibes, J.C. Heard: drums, Ray Brown: bass; et al.  – Bluebird/Legacy 82876-84866-2 mono,  42:31 ***1/2:

For all those jazz archivists out there, here’s another collection of classics from the late forties. Along with Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie helped put the bee in bebop, pioneering a trumpet style that added layers of harmonic complexity to jazz. (As he claimed in his 1979 autobiography To Be or Not to Bop, he kept the bebop style the rest of his life.) Tunes on this CD, like Night in Tunisia and Anthropology, were radically different from the swing music of the time. Unlike Parker, who played in small groups, Gillespie wanted to lead a big band like Duke Ellington. In 1945 he tried, but was not entirely successful.

Many of the big band numbers on this CD date from 1947, and are strange musical birds indeed. Constructed in A-B-A format, three-minute pieces like Stay on It and Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid feature traditional swing band intros — the kind heard in movies of the era – followed by a middle section of Dizzy playing a wild solo, sometimes with an on-again/off again mute. They then end with another ensemble segment, hot but audience-friendly, the kind that Ellington was playing at the time. These pieces are an acquired taste for modern ears, demanding patience of the listener accustomed to small-combo sounds. Rounding out this CD are Dizzy’s thrilling forays into new territory. Almost single-handedly, he introduced Afro-Cuban style, bringing Latin and African elements to the forefront of jazz. Manteca and Cubana Bop, with their rousing bongo percussion and vocalizations, swing free of most big band clichés. They feature the legendary bongo player Chano Pozo. I would have preferred more of the later works in a CD that claims to offer “the very best of Dizzy Gillespie.” (It clocks in at only 42:31.) But perhaps that’s more a job for a boxed set.

–Peter Bates

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