Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie

Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie

Alyn Shipton

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 0195144104

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Dizzy Gillespie was one of the most important and best-loved musicians in jazz history. With his horn-rimmed glasses, goatee, jive talk, and upraised trumpet bell, he was the hipster who most personified bebop. The musical heir to Louis Armstrong, he created the modern jazz trumpet-playing style and dazzled aficionados and popular audiences alike for over 50 years.

In this first full biography, Alyn Shipton covers all aspects of Dizzy's remarkable life and career, taking us through his days as a flashy trumpet player in the swing bands of the 1930s, his innovative bebop work in the 1940s, the worldwide fame and adoration he earned through his big band tours in the 1950s, and the many recordings and performances which defined a career that extended into the early 1990s. Along the way, Shipton convincingly argues that Gillespie--rather than Charlie Parker as is widely believed--had the greatest role in creating bebop, playing in key jazz groups, teaching the music to others, and helping to develop the first original bebop repertory. Shipton also explores the dark side of Dizzy's mostly sunny personal life, his womanizing, the illegitimate daughter he fathered and supported--now a respected jazz singer in her own right--and his sometimes needless cruelty to others.

For anyone interested in jazz and one of its most innovative and appealing figures, Groovin' High is essential reading.

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has always seemed likely that the tight ensemble playing and overall approach to small-group playing developed by Kirby played a role in Dizzy's thinking during the formative stages of bebop. Dizzy's playing on "When Lights Are Low" is evidence of his assimilation of the style, despite acquiring almost all his playing experience in big bands. The track that has drawn the most critical attention, however, and by whose title the session has always been known, is "Hot Mallets." Gillespie's opening

ganged up on Parker when he had missed one show too many, jabbing at his shoulders and making him promise to straighten out—an experience Harris himself endured after experimenting with nembutals.10 But if Parker's personal life was chaotic, there was no doubting his musical genius. Hines marveled as Parker memorized arrangement after arrangement, seldom looking at the parts again after the first run-through and indeed often sitting on his "book" and facing a blank music stand as he played each

he said: 'Hey! look who's coming in the door!' "I said, Who's that?' "He said, 'Dizzy Gillespie.' "Now remember, this is the same night I arrived in New York. I said, 'I wanna meet him.' "So Hank says, 'Hey! Dizzy! Come over here! I want you to meet a friend of mine, just got in town. A great bass player.' "I say, 'Hello.' "Dizzy says, 'You play good?' "Well, what am I going to say? So I said, 'I can play, you know.' "He said, 'Do you want a job?' "Well, I almost had a heart attack. But I said,

Horricks, Tony Gentry, and Barry McRae, or the lavish photo-books by Lee Tanner and Dany Gignoux. In other languages there are yet more books, by Jiirgen Wolfer, Laurent Clarke, and Franck Verdun. The answer is that to some extent all these books (which mostly appeared during Dizzy's lifetime) took their cues from him as to the shape and pattern of his life. For example, if Dizzy said that he had heard Roy Eldridge on the radio in Cheraw as a boy, who was to deny it? Yet when I found out that

bassist Ray Brown felt that this was the case when he spoke to the author. He agreed that the band had had to include some hastily written arrangements of more commercial pieces into its sets, including a few vocal numbers, but he did not feel there had been any compromise. "When we got to Billy Berg's, the newspaper said after the first night: 'Men from Mars Playing at Billy Berg's!' They thought we were the most outrageous thing they had ever heard. They didn't understand a note of it. But all

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