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Dizzy Gillespie

From Academic Kids

Dizzy Gillespie photographed by , 1955
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Dizzy Gillespie photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

Dizzy Gillespie (October 21, 1917 - January 6, 1993) was born John Birks Gillespie in Cheraw, South Carolina. He was an African-American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, singer, and composer. Gillespie, with Charlie Parker, was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz.

Gillespie was a trumpet virtuoso and gifted improviser. In addition to his instrumental skills, Dizzy's beret and horn-rimmed specs, his goofy scat singing, his bent horn and pouched cheeks, and his light-hearted personality put a human face on what many, including some of its creators, regarded as threatening and frightening music. In his playing, Gillespie built on the "saxophonic" style of Roy Eldridge and then went far beyond it.

The bebop quintet of the 40s with Gillespie on trumpet, Parker on alto saxophone, Max Roach on drums, and Bud Powell on piano had a remarkably high concentration of musicianship.

In addition to his work with Parker, Gillespie led small combos and big bands and appeared frequently as a soloist with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic. Early in his career, he appeared with Cab Calloway, who fired him for playing "Chinese music". The legendary big band of Billy Eckstine gave those unusual harmonies a better setting. In the 50s, Gillespie led the movement called Afro-Cuban music, bringing Latin and African elements to greater prominence in jazz and even pop music, particularly salsa.

Gillespie wrote a number of songs, notably "Manteca", "A Night in Tunisia", "Birk's Works", and "Con Alma", all jazz classics.

Cheek distention is purportedly called "Gillespie's pouch" in the medical community.

Gillespie published his autobiography, To Be or not to Bop in 1979, ISBN 0306802368.

Dizzy Gillespie was one of the most famous adherents of the Bah' Faith to the point that he is often called the Bah' Jazz Embassador. He is honored with weekly jazz sessions at the New York Bah' Center.

Gillespie is credited as the inventor of the 'Superbone' (a trombone with both a slide and valves), however this instrument was manufactured in the early 20th century (including by C.G. Conn).

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7057 Hollywood Boulevard.

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