Dizzy Gillespie: Pleyel Jazz Concert 1948

COMPOSERS: Dizzy Gillespie
LABELS: Vogue
PERFORMER: Dizzy Gillespie (t,v); Benny Bailey, Dave Burns, Lamar Wright Jr, Elmon Wright (t); Ted Kelly, Bill Shepherd (tb); Howard Johnson, John Brown (as); Joe Gayles, George ‘Big Nick’ Nicholas (ts); Cecil Payne (bs); John Lewis (p); Al McKibbon (b); Kenny Clark
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 40941 2

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This album is indeed a ‘record’ of an astonishing moment in jazz history, achieved against all the odds. World War II had prevented nations outside the USA from hearing the revolutionary new music, bebop, live, though hearsay and the occasional 78rpm record had brought some idea of its dynamism.

It had begun as small-group music spearheaded by Gillespie and Parker, but the former, in collaboration with arranger Gil Fuller and the composer George Russell, had also by 1947 adapted it for big band and introduced the Cuban element, with its multiple rhythms.

In January 1948, Gillespie took his big band to Scandinavia and Holland, where they were stranded when the promoter disappeared with the tour funds. At very short notice, the French jazz enthusiast Charles Delaunay managed to raise money, organise publicity and bring the band to Paris for a series of concerts.

This 29 February recording is of their fourth concert, and though the sound is rough, the excitement of the occasion, the band’s extraordinary impact, and the audience’s wild enthusiasm are thrilling.

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Above all, Gillespie’s superhuman skills – his stamina, unflagging invention, stratospheric range and lyricism – are awesome. The excellent small-group tracks by Max Roach and friends are a bonus and footnote to this main event. IC