Wednesday, August 22, 2012


© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Change the rhythm and you change the music.”
- Wynton Marsalis

The music on Rhythmstick [CTI- R2-79477] gets its name from Dizzy Gillespie’s famous walking stick.

As told by alto saxophonist Phil Woods to Gene Lees,

"…  Dizzy has such an important thing—the rhythm. That grabs people immediately. Dizzy is such-a master of rhythm, the Afro, the South American. He was the first cat to fuse the jazz and Cuban and the South American. Dizzy is the cat who discovered that, the first cat who used conga drums and all that, with Chano Pozo. That's a real big contribution of Diz, which is sometimes overlooked—not by musicians, of course. A lot of people know about the bebop part, but not the rhythm. He loves to play drums."

"That stick he carries—did you ever see that, that thing he made out of a stick and Coca-Cola bottle-caps?"

I had indeed. There's no name for this instrument of Dizzy's invention. It is a pole, like a piece of broomstick, with pop-bottle caps, hammered flat, mounted on nails along its length, like little stacks of finger cymbals. He can bounce it on the floor and kick it with his toe and stomp a beat with his foot or shake that stick in the air, setting up the damnedest swing you ever heard. I just call it Dizzy's Rhythmstick.

Phil said, "I once flew back with him on the Concorde. When you travel with Dizzy, it's -incredible. He was carrying that stick, right through the metal detector at the airport. The detector flipped out with a hundred Coca-Cola caps rattling. And all the control people cheered and applauded: here comes Dizzy with that silly stick. He plays it all the way through the airport; you can hear him a mile away."

Although he does not feature on all of the tracks, the music on Rhythmstick is intended as a tribute to Dizzy and most especially to all that Diz has meant to Jazz rhythm throughout his career. As Wynton Marsalis has stated: “Change the rhythm and you change the music.”

In his insert notes to Rhythmstick , Gene Lees goes on to describe the atmosphere at the recording date:

“When Dizzy arrived at Rudy Van Gelder's studio, the music that was in rehearsal stopped so that all the musicians could greet him. There was an aura about him. It wasn't exactly a matter of people lining up to pay tribute: jazz musicians are too democratic, the music itself is too democratic, for obeisance. But it certainly was an "homage;" in the way the French use that word.

The young revolutionary of long ago, with the horn-rimmed glasses and the beret and the goatee and the impish smile, had lived to be the elder statesman, the master, the sage of this music, and gathered about him were all these gifted players who were, directly or indirectly, his musical descendants.

‘Dizzy changed the way of the world,’ Phil Woods said. ‘That music means so much to so many people everywhere.”

With the help of the crackerjack graphics team at CerraJazz LTD along with the assistance of the production facilities at StudioCerra, we have compiled the following video montage based on the theme to one of the selections from Rhythmstick – tenor saxophonist Bob Berg’s Friday Night at the Cadillac Club.

Along with Bob, the other featured soloists on this musical recall of a rough-and-ready club in New Jersey where Bob once worked are trumpeter Art Farmer, alto saxophonist Phil Woods, guitarist Robben Ford and Jim Beard on the Hammond B-3 organ.  Booting things along in the drum chair is Marvin “Smitty” Smith.