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Jazz Music

Dizzy Gillespie - Con Alma (Verve Records 1954)

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Con Alma is a jazz standard written by Dizzy Gillespie. It incorporates aspects of bebop jazz and Latin rhythm, and is known for its frequent changes in key centers (occurring every two bars), while still maintaining a singable melody. Versions have been recorded by Oscar Peterson, Wes Montgomery, Ed Bickert, Stan Getz and Kenny Burrell. The song was recorded by Chaka Khan in 1982 as part of the "Be Bop Medley" from her album "Chaka Khan".

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (October 21, 1917 -- January 6, 1993) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer and occasional singer. Allmusic's Scott Yanow wrote, "Dizzy Gillespie's contributions to jazz were huge. One of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time (some would say the best), Gillespie was such a complex player that his contemporaries ended up copying Miles Davis and Fats Navarro instead, and it was not until Jon Faddis's emergence in the 1970s that Dizzy's style was successfully recreated. Arguably Gillespie is remembered, by both critics and fans alike, as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time."

Gillespie was a trumpet virtuoso and improviser, building on the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge but adding layers of harmonic complexity previously unknown in jazz. His beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, his scat singing, his bent horn, pouched cheeks and his light-hearted personality were essential in popularizing bebop.

Gillespie's trademark trumpet featured a bell which bent upward at a 45-degree angle rather than pointing straight ahead as in the conventional design. According to Gillespie's autobiography, this was originally the result of accidental damage caused by the dancers Stump and Stumpy falling onto it while it was on a trumpet stand on stage at Snookie's in Manhattan on January 6, 1953, during a birthday party for Gillespie's wife Lorraine. The constriction caused by the bending altered the tone of the instrument, and Gillespie liked the effect. He had the trumpet straightened out the next day, but he could not forget the tone. Gillespie sent a request to Martin Committee to make him a "bent" trumpet from a sketch produced by Lorraine, and from that time forward Gillespie played a trumpet with an upturned bell. Gillespie's biographer Alyn Shipton writes that Gillespie probably got the idea for a bent trumpet when he saw a similar instrument in 1937 in Manchester, England, while on tour with the Teddy Hill Orchestra. According to this account (from British journalist Pat Brand) Gillespie was able to try out the horn and the experience led him, much later, to commission a similar horn for himself.

Whatever the origins of Gillespie's upswept trumpet, by June 1954, he was using a professionally manufactured horn of this design, and it was to become a visual trademark for him for the rest of his life.

A longtime resident of Englewood, New Jersey, he died of pancreatic cancer January 6, 1993, aged 75, and was buried in the Flushing Cemetery, Queens, New York. Mike Longo delivered a eulogy at his funeral. He was also with Gillespie on the night he died, along with Jon Faddis and a select few others.

At the time of his death, Gillespie was survived by his widow, Lorraine Willis Gillespie; a daughter, jazz singer Jeanie Bryson; and a grandson, Radji Birks Bryson-Barrett. Gillespie had two funerals. One was a Bahá'í funeral at his request, at which his closest friends and colleagues attended. The second was at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York open to the public.

In December 1986 Gillespie gave the National Museum of American History his 1972 King "Silver Flair" trumpet with a Cass mouthpiece. In April 1995, Gillespie's Martin trumpet was auctioned at Christie's in New York City, along with instruments used by other famous musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley. An image of Gillespie's trumpet was selected for the cover of the auction program. The batteredinstrument sold to Manhattan builder Jeffery Brown for $63,000, the proceeds benefiting jazz musicians suffering from cancer.

Dizzy's accompanied by José Manguel (bongos); Gilberto Valdez (flute); Rafael Miranda (percussion), Rene Hernandez (piano); and Ubaldo Nieto (timbales). Recorded June 3, 1954 at Fine Sound, New York City. (Verve Records)

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