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Dizzy Gillespie in London, 1973

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In August 1973, the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet went into Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London for a two-week stay. Gillespie was backed by Al Gafa on guitar, Mike Longo on piano, Earl May on electric bass and Mickey Roker on drums. The gig was recorded by the club, one assumes. The results have been issued on four separate CDs—Dizzy Gillespie Live at Ronnie Scott's Vols. 1-4.

It's easy to forget how pleasant Gillespie's trumpet sounded during this period of his career. There's plenty of fireworks and drama in his horn, but so much of his attack was delightfully laid back—as if he were bowling strikes without ever letting you hear the ball touch the wood.

The best tracks are Brazilian-flavored originals by Longo (above), including his funk-samba Matrix and the  bossa Beyond a Moonbeam. Both feature superb solos by Gafa. Also fabulous is Longo's samba I Told You So and Mike's Samba. Longo knew that Gillespie sounded best during when he was gracefully hitting notes here and there with a Dizzy on the Riviera feel. 

Gillespie warhorses are here, too, including Groovin' High, Manteca, A Night in Tunisia, Con Alma and a breakneck Oo Popa Dah. Gillespie sings on several tracks, including Something in Your Smile, the closing song to the movie Doctor Dolittle with an I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face flavoring.

The sound quality of these CDs is largely excellent if you can get beyond the hard, metallic “shhh" coming off the cymbals and hi-hat, which make them sound like sheets of aluminum. Otherwise, worth exploring.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Dizzy Gillespie Live at Ronnie Scott's here (Vol. 1), here (Vol. 2), here (Vol. 3) and here (Vol. 4).

JazzWax clip: Here's “Mike's Samba."

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.

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