29 November 2004 (update 13 March 2007)

Remembering Dizzy Gillespie

By Tapani Lausti

James Moody, Frank Wess, Slide Hampton and Jon Faddis on stage together: that would have been a good enough reason to be there. In addition there were among others Randy Brecker (trumpet), Antonio Hart (alto sax and flute) and Gary Smulyan (baritone sax). I am writing about the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band. I don't remember recently hearing such a beautiful big band sound. All sections were excellent, but the saxophone section in my opinion produced often exquisite sounds.

The venue was Teatro Cervantes during the Málaga Jazz Festival. From the moment the excellent drummer Dennis Mackrel kicked the band off, the beauty of the big band sound was evident. After the first number trumpeter-band leader Faddis appeared on the stage and gave the proceedings Dizzy-like combination of fun and music, although when it came to jokes, Dizzy would have won hands down. The trumpet in his mouth, Faddis made a more credible impression although the most interesting solos of the evening came from the younger generation. Veteran saxophonists Wess and Moody watched altoist Hart's soloing with clear expressions of approval.

James Moody looked and sounded amazingly youthful considering that he already played in Gillespie's big band in the late 1940s. I remember hearing him in Helsinki in the 1960s with Gillespie's quintet. Towards the end of the concert he fooled around with some scat singing with the band's vocalist Roberta Gambarini, an excellent singer. She excelled on "Stardust", arranged by the veteran trombonist Slide Hampton. Other memorable performances were on Gillespie's "Blue 'n' Boogie" and, of course, the legendary "Manteca".

For the record, the rest of the musicians were Diego Urcola, Greg Gisbert and Frank Green in the trumpet section, Steve Davis, Jay Ashby and Jeff Nelson in the trombone section, Andrés Bolarsky (tenor sax), Tomoko Ohno, piano, Marty Ashby, guitar, and John Lee, electric bass.

After the concert, around the corner from the theatre, there was a late session at the Onda Pasadena club (Calle Gómez Pallete, 5) in honour of another late great trumpet player, Clifford Brown. This "Homenaje a Clifford Brown" was led and arranged by bassist Dimitri Skidanov. The other musicians were Ivan Gonzalez, trumpet, Moisés Fernandez, trombone, Enrique Oliver, tenor sax, Ivan Cuenca, baritone sax, Diego Suarez, piano, and Javier Forero, drums. Some of these musicians are familiar faces in the regular jam sessions held in the club every Tuesday night, starting at 11.30 pm.

PS (13 March 2007): I have now found a CD of this excellent big band, recorded live in 2005 at the Manchester Craftmen's Guild in Pittsburgh. (See www.mcgjazz.org) The title is Dizzy's Business. The lineup is slightly different than in the concert described above. Roy Hargrove appears as a guest trumpet soloist. The other soloists are trumpeters Randy Brecker, Claudio Roditi and Greg Gisbert, trombonists Slide Hampton, Jason Jackson and Steve Davis, altoist Antonio Hart, tenorists James Moody and Jimmy Heath, baritonist Gary Smulyan, pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist John Lee and vocalist Roberta Gambarini. The arrangements are by Slide Hampton, Dennis Mackrell, Jimmy Heath and Ernie Wilkins.

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