Live in Rotterdam - 1967
Live at Singer Concert Hall - 1973
The creator of the bebop style in the 1940s was considered to be one of the world’s three finest trumpet players, alongside Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. Proud bearer of his Afro-American heritage, he had an unsurpassed gift for the fusion of musical styles rooted in Latin America and Cuba with those of American music.
This was the eclectic, broadminded musician who stood before the audience in Laren, the Netherlands, on 25 August 1973. For Dizzy Gillespie, laughter was all-important: he would begin with a joke and end with a prank. In between, he would treat the audience to his philosophy of life. As the Bahá'í Faith teaches, “we are all branches of one tree and leaves of one branch” and then he would add, “and to demonstrate my philosophy, you’ll see the unity of the group”, and go on to list the surprisingly disparate ethnic origins of each of the musicians. The tone was set for the evening.
Immediately after the guitar introduction, Mike Longo on the piano launched into Caribbean festivities, and Dizzy, bubbling and spellbinding, burst out, continuing for 19 breath-taking minutes. Alex Gafa’s flamenco guitar followed, with its evocations of Spain. From then on, the concert soared to giddying heights with “The Truth”, a conversation in blues between the trumpet and the piano, conducted in the stifling heat of the Deep South. A pause, and Dizzy, barely containing his emotion, dedicated to Martin Luther King “Brother K”, a gentle ballad interspersed with stormy flashes of anger... Then “Manteca” – is this buttery smooth or a reference to the town in California? At any time, Dizzy could keep his audience dancing till dawn, but that evening he was resolutely more bluesy. In his suave voice, he kidded around about his age: 55 going on 22.
As though to contradict him, Jon Faddis, his protégé, sounded out his trumpet from afar, raw and nostalgic, their bond apparent. In less than 63 seconds, the musicians ended off on a surprisingly light musical theme. They retired from the stage as they had arrived, on tiptoes. Yet one thing remained certain: Dizzy, perhaps not elected President, was the Commander in Chief.