Dizzy Gillespie – Dizzy’s Big 4 (1974; 2013 reissue)

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This album, Dizzy Gillespie’s first and best for Norman Granz’s Pablo imprint, reaffirms a relationship with bassist Ray Brown that goes back to the mid-1940s. It’s Joe Pass who makes the bigger impression here.

Pass, essentially Granz’s house guitarist, pushes Gillespie — who, before this, had been woefully under-represented in the studio through his 50s — in the most intriguing of ways on a funky little tune like “Jitterbug Waltz.” (A previously unreleased alternate take on that tune, as well as the ever-shifting “Russian Lullaby,” are featured on this expanded reissue, due September 27, 2013 from the Concord Music Group.) Remarkably, this would be one a previous few times these jazz giants would meet.

Of course, Gillespie’s relationship with Granz went back some two decades at this point, with the trumpeter having been featured on 1953’s Diz and Getz as well as an assortment of all-star outings. Yet Gillespie’s talents were, to this point, largely undiminished. Dizzy’s Big 4 showcases a trumpeter who still possesses a stirring facility, as heard on a fleet reworking of Gillespie’s own 1942 composition “Be Bop,” the winking “Birk’s Works” and the muted, quite sumptuous “Hurry Home.”

Drummer Mickey Roker, who serves as the album’s tough foundation (check out his militaristic gusto on “Frelimo,” named after the Mozambique Liberation Front), would ultimately play on six subsequent Pablo dates with Diz — the best of which was Afro Cuban Jazz Moods, also featuring Machito.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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