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9.15: Dizzy Gillespie

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    Jazz trumpeter, pianist, arranger and composer. Along with Charlie “Yardbird” (or “Bird”) Parker, Gillespie is credited as one of the founding fathers of modern jazz. He was originally self-taught on a variety of instruments, but in 1933 he attended the Laurinberg Institute in North Carolina. After two years playing trumpet with the school’s band, he moved to Philadelphia, where he met trumpeter Charlie Shavers. It was through Shavers that Gillespie was introduced to the artistry of his great musical hero, trumpeter Roy Eldridge; in fact, many of his early solos are very much in Eldridge’s style. It was in Philadelphia that Gillespie’s clowning earned him the nickname “Dizzy” (sometimes shortened to “Diz.”). Gillespie moved to New York in 1937, and joined singer Cab Calloway’s band in 1939. It was in this band that the trumpeter met Afro-Cuban percussionist Mario Bauzá, sparking a lifelong interest in the fusion of jazz and Latin American music. Gillespie also provided some imaginative compositions and arrangements for Calloway’s ensemble. Gillespie first met Parker in 1940, and was soon participating in the after-hours jam sessions that would give rise to the new jazz style known as “bebop.” Gillespie made a variety of important recordings with Parker before the latter’s premature death in 1955. He performed with some of the most important jazz artists of his day, and, with conga player Chano Pozo, made some of the earliest explorations into the fusion of jazz and Afro-Cuban music, the most famous being “Manteca” of 1947. In the 1950s, Gillespie toured internationally for the State Department. In the 1980s, he returned to work with small groups, often with younger musicians, and continued performing up to the time of his death. He usually played a peculiarly bent horn, which, though originally the result of accidental damage, produced a tone he preferred. It is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution.

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