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Famous Like Me > Composer > G > Dizzy Gillespie

Profile of Dizzy Gillespie on Famous Like Me

Name: Dizzy Gillespie  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 21st October 1917
Place of Birth: Cheraw, South Carolina, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Dizzy Gillespie photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (October 21, 1917 - January 6, 1993) was born 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. In addition to featuring in these epochal moments in jazz, he was instrumental in founding Afro-Cuban jazz.

John Birks Gillespie was the youngest of nine children, and he taught himself to play the trumpet at the age of 12. Despite the poverty he grew up in, he managed to win a scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. However, he soon dropped out of school, and became desperate to work as a full-time musician. Despite finding work with Cab Calloway's group, Dizzy was soon being excoriated for his adventurous solos by his employer, who branded it "Chinese music." He was fired as a result of Calloway's dissatisfaction with Gillespie's modern, unorthodox approach.

Gillespie was a trumpet virtuoso and gifted improviser. In addition to his instrumental skills, Dizzy's beret and horn-rimmed specs, his scat singing, his bent horn and pouched cheeks, and his light-hearted personality endeared many to what was regarded as threatening and frightening music. In his playing, Gillespie built on the "saxophonic" style of Roy Eldridge, and the harmonic complexity of Charlie Parker and then went far beyond it. Unlike his great contemporary "Bird", Dizzy made a point of enthusiastically teaching future generations (such as Miles Davis at the time) the convolutions of bop. His memorable trademarks were distending his cheeks while playing (unlike most trumpet players who are trained to not do this - "Gillespie's pouch" is purportedly a term used by the medical community for cheek distention.), and a trumpet whose bell was bent at a 45 degree angle rather than a traditional straight trumpet. This was originally the result of accidental damage, but the constriction caused by the bending altered the tone of the instrument, and Gillespie liked the effect.

Gillespie's light hearted side was revealed most by his collaborations with the singer Joe Carrol. The recordings they made together were mostly silly songs, with humorous, and occasionally clever lyrics.

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. The legendary big band of Billy Eckstine gave his unusual harmonies a better setting. In the 40s, 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 jazz standards, among them "Manteca", "A Night in Tunisia", "Groovin' High", "Salt Peanuts" and "Con Alma", all of which are now jazz classics.

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 Bahá'í Faith to the point that he is often called the Bahá'í Jazz Ambassador. He is honored with weekly jazz sessions at the New York Bahá'í Center.

He died of cancer in early 1993 and lies in the Flushing Cemetery in Queens, New York.

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

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Dizzy Gillespie