Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dizzy Gillespie - Live at the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival (MJFP/Concord, 2007)

Trumpeter and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie loved playing at the Monetery Jazz Festival, so it's natural to have one of the inaugural discs in their commemorative series feature one of his finest working bands of James Moody on flute & tenor saxophone, Kenny Barron on piano, Christopher White on bass, Rudy Collins on drums and Big Black on congas.This Gillespie group had been together for three years and had been touring and recording regularly during that time. The musicians are comfortable with the music and each other but also willing to stretch and expand the basic materials available. The music on this disc amounts to a brief LP length of about 40 minutes with some additional announcements and a dose of Dizzy's good natured clowning around. There is a mention in the liner noes that the band played two other performances during the festival, it's a shame that they couldn't have been added here as well. The music that is here is played at a very high level, however. Their set opens with "Trinidad, Goodbye" which is a steaming percussion fueled burner with Big Black's congas leading the way. This sounds great with the band hitting on all cylinders. "Day After" is dedicated to Billie Holiday and Dizzy shows a very sensitive ballad side, playing with a great deal of sensitivity and expression. The tempo picks back up with "Poor Joe" which has an exciting island flavored beat with some nice flute from James Moody, and vocals and high register trumpet from the leader. Moody gets a wonderful boppish solo turn on tenor saxophone on the obligatory "A Night in Tunisia." Despite having doubtlessly played this tune every night for years, the band still finds a fresh angle and turns in a fiery performance. "Ungawa" features Big Black's dexterous percussion work, but at eleven minutes, his solo feature drags on a little too long before the band comes back for a brief run-through of "Chega de Saudade (No More Blues) to wrap things up. A brief liner essay and some black and white photos round out the package. Devotees of the trumpeter will no doubt enjoy this brief set, although newcomers to Gillespie are encouraged to first explore his groundbreaking Musicraft sides.

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