These sessions document unequivocally why Dizzy Gillespie is still considered one of the greatest improvisers in the history of jazz, for his mastery of the instrument, his command of time, his control over musical ideas, and his ability to entertain. He was blessed during this period, which spans 1954 to 1963, with stellar sidemen, unparalleled arrangements, and a surge of excitement for making music.
This edition presents, for the first time ever on CD, Dizzy Gillespie's complete performance at the 1961 Monterey Jazz Festival. While humorously introduced by Diz as “A Musical Safari”, the set is a mixture of the repertoire the quintet was playing during that period, including an excursion into the realm of bossa nova. The quintet features the wonderful Leo Wright and Argentinean pianist Lalo Schifrin, as well as singer Joe Carroll on one track.
The first DVD of Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casual TV series combines three separate 30-minute programs previously available individually as videos; obviously this is the better way to acquire them, both financially and from a preservation standpoint. Count Basie's appearance is a bit unusual. Gleason parks himself next to the piano following the opening number and remains there throughout the show, making Basie seem nervous and rather uncomfortable with his host during the interview excerpts and rarely, if ever, looking Gleason in the eye while talking to him.
Gary Keys' 1986 film capturing Dizzy Gillespie and band live in Redondo Beach, CA. The trumpeter/bandleader is in great form, leading his crack band through classics from various parts of his career. Filmed in Gary Keys signature style, with lots of closeups of the players, capturing all of the impish comedy and good times of the elder statesman of jazz.
The collaborations of went back to the early 1960s when the young Argentinian played piano in Gillespie's quintet. Schifrin's Gillespiana, a suite written for Gillespie and a big band, became one of the best known works of the era and its section called "Blues" a milestone in Schifrin's career. In 1977, Schifrin was established as a successful composer for television and movies but had maintained close ties with his former employer, who asked him to write the music that became Free Ride. The emphasis was on the funky pop side of jazz soul music. The electronic instruments included a synthesizer and the guitar of the appropriately nicknamed . Also on hand among the backup musicians were and other stalwarts of the Los Angeles studio scene.
When Detroiter David Usher and Dizzy Gillespie founded the Dee Gee record label, they might have had an inkling that their project could, and would, fail financially due to poor distribution, the conversion from 78s to LPs, and the heavy hammer of the taxman. They might have felt, but could not have imagined, that they would create some of the most essential and pivotal jazz recordings for all time, not to mention some of the last great sides of the pioneering bebop era. Gillespie's large ensembles brought to public attention the fledgling young alto and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, such Detroiters as guitarist Kenny Burrell or pianist/vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and vocalists Joe Carroll, Freddy Strong and Melvin Moore. Considering the years – 1951 and 1952 – this was revolutionary breakthrough music from a technical and entertainment aspect, delightful music that has stood the test of time and displays the trumpeter in his prime as a bandleader.
Dizzy Gillespie brings together tenor saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins for four extended cuts, and in the process comes up with one of the most exciting "jam session" records in the jazz catalog. While the rhythm section of pianist Ray Bryant, bassist Tommy Bryant, and drummer Charlie Persip provides solid rhythmic support, Stitt and Rollins get down to business trading fours and reeling off solo fireworks. Apparently, Gillespie had stoked the competitive fires before the session with phone calls and some gossip, the fallout of which becomes palpable as the album progresses.