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.
For a time in 1988, Moe Koffman (tripling on flute, alto and soprano) teamed up regularly with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. On this CD, Koffman and his regular group (guitarist Ed Bickert, keyboardist Bernie Senensky, bassist Kieran Overs, and drummer Barry Elmes) perform three of Dizzy's tunes, originals by Koffman and Senensky, and "Lush Life" with Gillespie. Diz's trumpet playing was clearly past its prime by 1988, but his scat singing on "Oop-Pop-A-Da" is quite virtuosic and outstanding, easily the high point of this little-known set.