AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS
Pain Relief Beyond Belief
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was born in Cheraw, SC, October 21, 1917. His virtuosity on trumpet was immediately recognized and through teacher recommendations, received a scholarship to Laurinberg Institute (NC), where he studied music with esteemed educator, Philmore "Shorty" Hall. Upon his exit, Dizzy headed to Philadelphia, embarking on a professional musical career. His ability had been realized by many, but not appreciated by all. As a member of the Cab Calloway Orchestra, Dizzy's replacement became imminent as his "non-Louie-like" approach matured and termination inevitable. The associations following his release from Cab's orchestra, would provide musical partnerships and associations initiating a stellar career which would last for decades and only end with death.
Pittsburgh great, Earl Hines, established as the primary originator of modern Jazz piano, headed his legendary band at the Grand Terrace Hotel, in Chicago. Hines had proved himself, not only master of the piano, but as highly successful talent scout, recognizing genius within a group of burgeoning originators. In 1943, Dizzy joined Hines' band, immediately followed by a young alto sax player hired to play tenor....and his name? Charlie Parker. The BeBop duo was in place and joining them on the bandstand were vocalists Sarah Vaughan and Pittsburgh's own, Billy Eckstine. Dizzy's most successful recording, "A Night In Tunisa" (aka "Interlude"), was in fact, titled by Earl Hines.
In 1944, Billy Eckstine, headliner and heart-throb extrodinaire, began his own band. Using his status as star vocalist to generate revenue, he supported Gillespie's and Parker's musical concept and began the first presentation of orchestral BeBop. Dizzy was hired as musical director and, although the band was short-lived, its orchestral concept remained an integral component to the BeBop idiom. An aside: The Charles "Teenie" Harris Collection archive provides marvelous photos of this band/1944 Aragon Ballroom, Pittsburgh. I would love to hear someone indicate a "home"/air-check recording exists.
Dizzy Gillespie's remarkable career explored Afro-Cuban rhythms, engaged in pre-Bossa Nova, samba-like rhythms. He collaborated with Lalo Schifirn (Gillespiana), toured the world as Jazz Ambassador and continued his legendary career providing exemplary music with vigor, originality and humor. He died January 6, 1993.
WKCR will celebrate the CENTENNIAL of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie beginning on FRIDAY, OCT. 20th, at 5:30 AM (ET) and continue into SATURDAY, OCT. 21st. Phil Schaap will present musical and biographical commentary on Friday from 7:30 AM - 11:00 AM and on Saturday from 7:30 AM - 10:00 AM.
Join Dizzy's CENTENNIAL celebration. It only happens once!
Click "Listen" in upper right corner.
Finally, I will celebrate the centennial by listening to WKCR and wearing my "Dizzy Gillespie For President" lapel pin. But, that is another story!
Pittsburghers who played in Dizzy's bands: Kenny Clarke (drums), Art Blakey (drums), Ray Brown (bass), Joe Harris (drums), Sam Hurt (trombone) Linton Garner (piano). Roy Eldridge was Dizzy's trumpet idol.
I think I still possess 78 RPM records of both Diz and Bird from the 1940s. The first time I saw him live was when his group alternated with the Deuces Wild at the Midway Lounge on Penn Ave. downtown---probably early 50s.. Years later, Dizzy mingled with fans as well as performing in a "Jazz On The River" cruise. One night at Blues Alley in Georgetown, Diz called Oscar Brown, Jr. up from the audience. One of his numbers was "The Snake". At his campaign rallies last year, Trump misused some of Brown's lyrics to represent Mexican immigrants and Muslims as snakes who would bite the hand that feeds them. Unforgivable!
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