21 October 2010


Google gave a graphic shout out to Dizzy Gillespie today on what would have been his 95th birthday (he died in 1993).

I just really discovered jazz about a year ago. After going to a number of concerts and digging into some recordings, I decided it was time to really figure it out. This music that is so compelling but so hard to appreciate. So I watched the Ken Burns documentary (yes, all of it), picked up a couple great books, and started digging into some best-album lists to see which recordings jazz enthusiasts put at the top.

One thing you quickly see is that jazz, from our perspective now, had a brief golden age that produced the preponderance of the top 100 albums. The magic years were from about 1950-65, with it peaking in the late fifties. This music can generally be termed modern jazz, and the varieties developed in the 40s and 50s continue, for all its evolution, to still define jazz today.

The first incarnation of modern jazz was bebop, which changed jazz from dance music (swing) to musicians music. The two main innovators of bebop were Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. It's because of bebop that jazz today is one of two academic musical genres (the other being classical). It's hard stuff. Hard to listen to and very hard to play. It was created by virtuosos who could not repress themselves, even when people often reacted to their music with shock and dislike. But Gillespie played his music his way his whole life, becoming enormously influential. He is certainly one of the five most important musicians in the history of jazz. The man deserves some respectful thought occasionally, and today was a day for it.

Here's something sweet and cool from Diz.

Dizzy Gillespie Quintet - Tin Tin Deo

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