Happy Birthday Dizzy Gillespie
Today marks the birthday of one John Birks Gillespie – better known as Dizzy Gillespie. Born today in 1917 in South Carolina, Dizzy became of the leading figures in the development of modern jazz and its sub-forms: bebop and Afro-Cuban.
Besides being a composer, band leader, singer, music teacher and accomplished pianist, Gillespie is undoubtedly best remembered as a trumpet virtuoso. Wearing his trademark beret and playing is bent-horn trumpet with seemingly effortless ease, his pouched cheek style is unmistakable.
As Allmusic’s Scott Yanow wrote: “Dizzy Gillespie’s contributions to jazz were huge. Arguably Gillespie is remembered, by both critics and fans alike, as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time. Gillespie was such a complex player that his contemporaries ended up copying Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead…”
Having taught himself to play both trombone and trumpet by the time he was 12, Gillespie turned down a music scholarship offer from the Laurinburg Institute in order to start his music career. His first professional job was with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra in 1935 and over the next few years Gillespie had worked with a large number of jazz music luminaries including Charlie Parker, Cab Calloway John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald.
Here’s a great clip of Dizzy in fine form in the 1970’s with his sense of humour shining through as he teaches his audience the complex lyrics and rhythms of Salt Peanuts. “Emphasize the pea not the nuts!”
And one more for fun. This time a clip of Dizzy in 1980 when he appeared as a guest on The Muppet Show. Here he performs a groovy version of St. Louis Blues with the Muppets studio band The Electric Mayhem.
Animal on the drums! Yeah!