Dizzy Gillespie at the Spotlite - JazzWax

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November 11, 2008


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For the second post in a row, you've convinced me to buy a CD. Who knew Boz Skaggs sang jazz? Who knew Monk played on the Spotlite CD? I'm excited to find another Monk recording I haven't heard and my respect for Gillespie is bound to grow after hearing his early big band work. Your posts are a treat and I can almost see the sweat stains on your blog after all the research you do for each post. Thanks.

Ed Leimbacher

until yesterday, i didn't know this existed. but Diz, Monk, and the other Bop greats? Gitler notes? the same label that issued Bird and Diz at Town Hall? Lordy, it's a definite no-brainer! and major thanks to you for the tug.

Alan Kurtz

Marc, I'm offended by your jarring juxtaposition of the photograph of a black GI being decorated (by a white officer) within the context of a blog celebrating Dizzy Gillespie. For those who haven't read Gillespie's memoir "To Be Or Not To Bop" (Doubleday, 1979), let it be said that Dizzy was an avowed draft dodger during World War II. "My idea was not to go to the Army at all," resolved Gillespie, a strapping 24-year-old at the time of Pearl Harbor, "and being on the road all the time, I figured they might not catch up with me." (p. 119) Eventually the induction examiners roped him in, but the ever-wily trumpeter conned them with threats about firing in combat not at the German enemy but at white Americans, since "the white man's foot has been buried up to his knee in my ass hole!'" (p. 120) "They finally classified me 4F because I was crazy enough not to want to fight, in anybody's army. And especially not at that time. Shoot," said Dizzy, "I was just beginning to enjoy life." (ibid)

In response to the most popular call to arms in American history, Dizzy Gillespie turned a deaf ear, preferring not to interrupt his career. After all, he was just beginning to enjoy life. No doubt it was pleasanter during World War II to breeze around Harlem carrying a trumpet than to slog around Bastogne with the all-black 969th Field Artillery Battalion during the Battle of the Bulge. Still, Gillespie's slick draft evasion makes more than a million African Americans who wore their nation's uniform during WW II seem like chumps. And it especially defiles the sacrifice made by the tens of thousands of black servicemen killed or wounded in action.

Alan Kurtz

In my comment above, I neglected to mention that your blog appeared on Veterans Day, of all days. That makes your use of a photograph of a GI being decorated, presumably for combat service during World War II, especially offensive in the context of extolling Dizzy Gillespie.

Marc Davis

It's out of print, but the 2-record set "Dizziest" chronicles Dizzy's 1947-49 big band. It was one of my very favorite jazz records for a long time.

Granted, it comes after this groundbreaking 1946 set. Still, the music is so far away from traditional big bands that it's almost an entirely different genre.

Granted, too, there are some novelty songs ("Hey Pete, let's eat more meat!") mixed in with the more instrumental tunes. And the songs are nearly all three minutes. But I remember quite a few good Latin-style numbers, such as "Cubana Be/Cubana Bop" and "Manteca." I wish I still had that record. Unfortunately, I gave it away to a friend. I did tape it onto cassette... but you know what happens to all cassettes eventually.

If you see this record, grab it. It's probably just a half-notch below "Showtime at the Spotlite."

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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