Dizzy Gillespie's Bebop Reunion
Dizzy Gillespie has gradually emerged as the musician I've written about most since the inception of this blog nearly two years, so when I discovered this footage of his Bebop Reunion last fall, I decided to keep it on the shelf for a later date. Now thanks to Marc Myers' JazzWax feature yesterday highlighting Al Haig's presence in the band, it's time to post the entire 1975 PBS special, Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop Reunion. It was conceived by Ben Sidran for the Chicago Public Television series, Soundstage, which also presented this all-star tribute to Muddy Waters a year earlier, and subsequent specials on Benny Goodman and Professor Longhair.
The stars came out for this one. With Sidran (who posted this on YouTube) also credited as Music Supervisor, here's a reunion that more than lives up to its promise-- the playing and singing are simply great. In addition to the legendary pianist Al Haig, the group includes saxophonist James Moody, vibraharpist Milt Jackson, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Kenny Clarke, major figures whose connections with Gillespie began in the 40’s. Myers was especially impressed to see Haig for the first time (I don’t recall seeing footage of him either), but there’s another ringer here in vocalist Joe “Bebop” Carroll, who sang with Gillespie between 1949 and ’53. Dizzy introduces him as a “master who typifies our music in the vocal department." Carroll recalls Ella Fitzgerald's famous bebop take on “Oh, Lady Be Good.”
A reunion of this kind wouldn’t be complete without Sarah Vaughan. Dizzy says, “Never in the history of our music has anyone stood out as vividly as…Her Majesty, Her Imperial Highness, The Maharani, The Divine One.” Gillespie and Vaughan first worked with together in the historic Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine big bands in 1943 and ’44, and Sarah recorded “Lover Man” with Gillespie, Haig, and Charlie Parker in 1945. Vaughan follows Carroll with “’Round Midnight,” and returns later to sing “Lover Man.” In between, Carroll, Vaughan, and Dizzy dust off “Oop-Pop-A-Da,” with Moody, Bags, and Klook adding their vocal chops and hand clapping to the bebop blues classic.
Following a tone and test pattern, the program begins with “Salt Peanuts,” followed by “Groovin’ High," "Lady Be Good," "'Round Midnight," "Oop-Pop-A-Da," “Cherry," "Lover Man," and “A Night in Tunisia." It’s intercut with Dizzy’s reflections on the music, footage of him in the 40's, and his visit to the Baha'i Temple in suburban Wilmette, Illinois. Gillespie had converted to the Baha'i Faith in the late '60s and often spoke about Baha'i and its relationship to his music. He said Baha'i motivated his desire to bring "uplift" to the world, and the Baha'i concept of global citizenship for all mankind was an inspiration for Dizzy's late career big band which he called the United Nation Orchestra.