Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet; James Moody - tenor saxophone; Kenny Barron - piano; Chris White - bass; Rudy Collins - drums
Long before Barack Obama came along, another great man made his bid to become the first black president of the United States of America. By 1964, the pioneering bebop trumpeter John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was in the midst of a mock presidential campaign, up against Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater for the '64 election. By the time of his appearance at the 1964 Newport Jazz Festival, Dizzy had already appeared on the cover of Down Beat dressed in formal attire replete with top hat, his outstretched hand placed on a bible as a faux Supreme Court Justice administered the oath of office. "Dizzy for President" was the slogan of the day, and no doubt he might've gotten a sizable chunk of votes from the faithful at Newport had he actually taken his mock run for the White House to fruition. (In a Gillespie Administration, Duke Ellington would have been secretary of state, Max Roach would have been running the military, and the CIA would have been under the thumb of that master of subterfuge, Miles Davis himself).
A natural-born entertainer, Gillespie played the Newport audience like a skilled vaudevillian in his spirited performance on Sunday, July 5, 1964. With his working quintet of pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Chris White, drummer Rudy Collins and special guest saxophonist James Moody, he opened his set with his signature "Dizzy Atmosphere," played at a breakneck tempo. Gillespie's stratospheric trumpet solo on this bop staple (a tune he played in the late '40s alongside his erstwhile partner Charlie Parker) is particularly exhilarating while Moody rises to the occasion with some tenor burn of his own. White fuels the driving rhythm section with his insistent walking bass lines why Barron contributes a blazing, cascading piano solo on this old school bop romp.
Next they settle into more relaxed, soulful territory with a rendition of "The Coolie," a midtempo, shuffling blues composed by Mal Waldron for a soundtrack to the 1964 motion picture Cool World, Shirley Clarke's film about young people growing up in Harlem. Dizzy's trumpet solo is typically virtuosic, particularly in the high register, and is also imbued with a strong melodic sense while Barron takes his time developing his facile piano solo. Moody blows with gusto on the bridge before joining Dizzy on the bluesy theme. It's an affecting vehicle that recalls the earthy charm of Bobby Timmons writing for the Jazz Messengers.
Their interpretation of the Don Redman torch song "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You," a tune most closely associated with singer Billie Holiday, is handled here like a requiem at the outset, with White's dramatic bowed bass drones setting a funereal tone. Gillespie takes an understated approach here, turning in one of his more expressive solos. By the time they shift into a brisk 6/8 passage, Dizzy is positively giddy, and he builds to a powerful crescrendo before the piece returns to the mournful intro theme. They end their set on a vibrant note with an energized take on the Jobim bossa nova classic "Chega de Suadade" (often translated as "No More Blues"). Moody blows first on this buoyant theme, then Dizzy joins in on some tight, crisp harmony lines that the crackle on top of the insinuating samba rhythms. As the piece evolves, Gillespie goes for the stratosphere once again and Moody explores the full range of his horn through several choruses of wide open improvisation, delving into some soul-stirring statements along the way. Dizzy heats up the groove alongside him by playing on a pandeira (Brazilian tambourine). Barron's mesmerizing piano solo only elevates the energized proceedings. This 11-minute excursion is a highlight of their entertaining set that day at Newport and stands as yet another example of Gillespie's desire to incorporate the music of other world cultures into the fabric of jazz improvisation (a direction that would be further played out with his United Nations Orchestra during the 1980s). (Milkowski)
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