Jazz Birthday: John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917)

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Dizzy’s birthdate is October 21. Dizzy Gillespie was such a huge influence on modern jazz that his death merited this lengthy biographical obituary in the New York Times. Dizzy’s father was a pianist and band leader. Dizzy started on piano but switched to trumpet, his idol being Roy Eldridge. We are told “Young Gillespie, then 13, loved Eldridge’s playing and the entire band. From that day on, he dreamed of becoming a jazz musician.” It is frequently the case that love and dreams are the foundation of intense building up of skills, followed by musical careers and innovations. Dizzy studied harmony for two years at Laurinburg Institute. Sometimes a single music teacher furthers the musical education of many notable musicians, as in the case of Walter Dyett. Here Diz plays “Blue Moon” and “No More Blues“. Or try this version of Blue Moon in which Roy Eldridge and Diz both played.

Diz took bands on worldwide tours sponsored by the State Department in the period of jazz diplomacy. The Khrushchev Thaw period nurtured cultural exchanges. A concert attendee in Yugoslavia exclaimed “What this country needs is fewer ambassadors and more jam sessions!”

2:00 am on October 22, 2012