the recent bout of viral infections making the world a lot less
steady than hitherto, there seemed only one choice for this week's
focus - Dizzy Gillespie.
John Birks "Dizzy"
Gillespie (October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993)
figure, along with Charlie Parker, in the development of Be-bop, he
was a trumpet virtuoso and gifted improviser, building on the
virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge but adding layers of harmonic
complexity previously unknown in jazz.
pouched cheeks and his light-hearted personality were essential in
popularizing bebop, which was originally regarded as threatening and
frightening music by many listeners raised on older styles of
He also played an unusual trumpet with the bell angled
at 45 degrees. According to Gillespie's autobiography, this was
originally the result of accidental damage caused during a job on
January 6, 1953, but the constriction caused by the bending altered
the tone of the instrument, and Gillespie liked the effect.
Gillespie's biographer Alyn Shipton writes that Gillespie probably
got the idea when he saw a similar instrument in 1937 in Manchester,
England while on tour with the Teddy Hill Orchestra. Gillespie came
across an English trumpeter who was using such an instrument because
his vision was poor and the horn made reading music easier.
According to this account (from British journalist Pat Brand)
Gillespie was able to try out the horn and the experience led him,
much later, to commission a similar horn for himself.
Whatever the origins of Gillespie's upswept trumpet, by June
1954 Gillespie was using a professionally manufactured horn of this
design, and it was to become a visual trademark for him for the rest
of his life.
Starting off his career with Cab Calloway, he
moved to back Ella Fitzgerald before joining the Earl Hines
Orchestra, then backing Billy Eckstine. It was here he was re-united
with Charlie Parker who had also been with Earl Hines.
of the 'scary stuff' he recorded with Bird still epitomise &
define Be-bop to this day. Unlike Miles Davis, this was a style that
he stayed with for his entire career.