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DIZZY DISCOVERIES : FOUR CDS AND A BOOK

UNHEARD NEVER RELEASED RECORDINGS BY A LEGENDARY GROUP

There they were lying in Chief Engineer’s, the late PETER BOULD’s, possession.  Professionally recorded tapes of a quintet led by the legendary John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: Gillespie, trumpet and vocals; Mike Longo, piano, Al Gafa, guitar, Earl May, bass, Mickey Roker, drums

Recorded at London’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in 1973 they lain fallow until Bould’s wife contacted DAVE USHER, producer and a partner in the Gillespie led short-lived DeeGee Records, about the possibility of issuing them.

Former record producer Usher, who now owns an environment engineering company in Detroit *, approached his friend, pianist Longo, to issue –NB: these are NOT reissues but newly uncovered professional recordings– the quartet of CDs on Longo’s CAP recording company.

(* Marine Pollution Control.  The overall release is credited to Usher’s Red Anchor Productions.)

Longo and his wife Dorothy, oversee weekly Jazz Sessions in The John Birks Gillespie Auditorium at the New York Baha’i Center in Greenwich Village, NYC.  (Gillespie was and the Longo’s are Baha’i.)  Longo records his 17-piece New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble there as well as his Funk Band and smaller groups and releases them on CAP.  The label has gained some recognition as the artist-run label has taken hold amongst the performers at the Center.  That is principally due to the fact that the musicians are their own bosses taking the music in directions other labels might not.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I volunteer at the door; I consider it a pro-bono tithing.)  The musicians cover their own costs with Longo providing the forum to do so.

Usher’s enthusiasm also helps support the Center.  It was with deep respect that Gillespie’s former longtime pianist, music director, and friend, Longo was asked to issue the CDs.  It was a long and arduous process.  The booklet notes –they are a detailed, extensive, informative, perhaps even a historical document, and might be considered for a Kindle book by itself  (more later)– was originally commissioned to Ira Gitler, but illness intervened eventually being written masterfully by DOUG RAMSEY.  Ramsey takes us on a step-by-step journey through a sometimes violent political climate –The Irish Republican Army– and what was going through the minds of the artists during a perilous upheaval.

Then there was the decision to either issue the CDs individually over an indeterminate period of time or in a boxed set.  They are currently in the former format.  But Christmas is coming…

The sonics are piquant.  Between Usher’s on site expertise, and Longo’s and mixing and mastering by Tom Spahn, and Chief Engineer in London Bould you might expect nothing less.

Dizzy’s sense of humor and timing are evident in the relaxed versions of Dizzy-faves as well as some new music by Longo: “The Truth,” “Matrix,” “The Crossing,” “I Told You So,” “Alligator” and “Mike’s Samba.”  Mike bows to his former boss for giving him greater opportunity to compose as well as play.

I have traveled with various Gillespie-led groups and this is among his most compleat personality-wise.

 

DAVE USHER TALKS ABOUT HIMSELF AND DIZZY GILLESPIE IN NEW BOOK: “MUSIC IS FOREVER”

Kindle Books has become a great way to self-publish shorter treatises on less that blockbuster topics which the larger publishing houses eschew, jazz among those.

Self-proclaimed daughter of Louis Armstrong’s, Sharon Preston-Folta wrote an excellent account of the mutual love between she and her dad.

Talk about compleat.  Usher has done the same for the deep friendship between him and his idol and former partner Dizzy Gillespie.  It’s entitled “MUSIC IS FOREVER.”

Usher from Detroit, Michigan, Gillespie from Cheraw So. Carolina bonded almost immediately upon first meeting.  “What we don’t have in common was unimportant; it was the music,”  Usher repeatedly acknowledges: “I a white Jewish kid from the North; he a black star from the South.”   It was the music that was the bonding glue.

While not a companion piece to the four CD recordings from London, this short conversational book is a quick informative read.  As with all books of this nature, it needs more editing.  There is a great deal of predictability and redundancy.   The points are made repeatedly of the closeness of the pair.

Thankfully, there’s more first-hand byplay between the two men which could never be covered anywhere else.  Like the Ramsey notes to the CDs alluded to above this too might lay claim as a historical document about one the greatest innovators in American musical letters.

All that said, the CDs and book are a relatively inexpensive way to add to your jazz library.  Isn’t it wonderful that these things keep getting (re)discovered?

 

© June, 2015 by arnold jay smith

 

 

 

 

 


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