Bird Songs – The Final Recordings

COMPOSERS: Gillespie,Parker
LABELS: Telarc
ALBUM TITLE: Dizzy Gillespie
PERFORMER: Dizzy Gillespie (t, v); Paquito D’Rivera, Antonio Hart, Jackie McLean (as); Benny Golson, Clifford Jordan, David Sanchez (ts); Bobby McFerrin (v); Danilo Perez (p); George Mraz (b); Lewis Nash, Kenny Washington (d)


No one knew Dizzy Gillespie had only another year to live when, in January 1992, the Blue Note jazz club in New York engaged him for a month, with a whole series of his musical associates, in celebration of his contribution to jazz. He was 74 and apparently in robust health, but immediately after this engagement, pancreatic cancer was diagnosed and he never worked again.

The six performances on Bird Songs, drawn from recordings at the club on 23-25 January, are therefore a kind of loving and conspiratorial swansong including excellent versions of Gillespie’s ‘Con Alma’ and ‘A Night in Tunisia’, and Charlie Parker’s ‘Confirmation’. Gillespie’s imagination is as excited, passionate and fantastical as ever, though he no longer has the physical resources to express the sheer drama of his imaginings. But the occasional flashes of his earlier self are very moving.


Bobby McFerrin appears only in the opening track, ‘Ornithology’, scatting a dazzling falsetto solo, and the penultimate track has Dizzy singing his own hilarious blues which begins, ‘I’m 74 years old, but going on 22.’