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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without using a plate) by strolling with Green toward Tottenham Court Road. The ostensible purpose of the stroll was to look at the plethora of camera shops in the area, but Dizzy confessed his real motive was to see the site of a prostitute's room where, after conducting his business, he had accidentally (and painfully) washed his private parts in Lysol in a dimly lit bathroom during his 1937 visit with the Hill band.20 On both sides of the English Channel, audiences had relatively few

. stiffen and begin to hit the piano and consequently lose the rhythm."2 In his autobiography, Wilson describes the technicalities of Hines's technique and demonstrates the lineage that filtered from Hines through his own playing and that of Art Tatum to the early boppers like Bud Powell and Al Haig. Yet this meant nothing to most members of the general public in the early 1940s for whom Hines was simply a successful bandleader who employed a heartthrob vocalist, Billy Eckstine, known as the

maintained that this was simply because Shadow did not want to tour the South. The first date for the band was in Wilmington, Delaware, on June 9. Disaster struck when Dizzy, traveling to the job from New York, went to sleep on the train and woke up several stations further down the line when he arrived at the terminus in Washington, D.C. Shadow Wilson did not make the gig either, and Eckstine was reduced to playing drums himself. "Now I'm really frantic, I don't have Diz there and I don't have

reed section colleagues—Sonny Stitt, John Jackson, and Leo Parker—became known as the "unholy four." Eckstine continued to lead the band until 1947, but Dizzy left him in December 1944, when the band came to the Apollo in New York for the Christmas show. Dizzy had gotten what he wanted from Eckstine: the chance to write and arrange for a big band (which he directed and rehearsed), and he had gained the trust of Billy Shaw. The time had come for Dizzy to establish himself as a leader, and he began

so astutely focus on their contribution to the development of jazz and so accurately pinpoint the recordings that charted the change. Before moving on to the remainder of 1945, it is worth noting that "All the Things You Are" from February 28 has a shared ballad chorus from Dizzy and Parker at the start, along with a brief muted solo from Dizzy at the end, which builds around a riffed countermelody. This piece, like all the others, has a closely arranged introduction and coda, suggesting a

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