© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“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."
“The music resumed. Tito Puente and Airto began to cook, Latin rhythm swirled around John Birks Gillespie. He took up his Rhythmstick, and tapped it on the floor, and shook it in the air, this remarkable man who can make music on a stick.”
- Gene Lees, Jazz author, critic and editor
Wynton Marsalis, the trumpet playing leader of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, has been quoted as saying: “Change the rhythm and you change the music.”
Such profundity from such an apparently simple statement.
But when the subject is rhythm in Jazz there’s nothing simple about it and the fact that Jazz can readily incorporate so many different rhythms is one of the features that keeps it vibrant; full of the energy that is so much a part of the music’s initial and continuing appeal.
No one in the history of Jazz ever brought more different forms of rhythm to it than John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.
Afro-Cuban, Caribbean, Samba, Bossa Nova, Tango, Portuguese Fado, and Middle Eastern rhythms are just some of the patterns which are everywhere apparent in Dizzy’s music.
And to top it all off, there’s his Rhythmstick, a gift from a friend and one of the great joys of the latter years of his life.
Rhythmstick [CTI R2 79477] is also the name of one of my favorite albums which was produced by the legendary Creed Taylor in 1990 and features Dizzy along with the “CTI All-Stars.”
Here are Gene Lees’ informative and instructive insert notes to the recording.
“The spirit of Dizzy Gillespie is throughout this album.
It isn't only a matter of his beautiful solos, it is in the influence he has had on the generations of players heard on this recording.
Dizzy was born on October 21,1917; Phil Woods on November 2,1931, when Dizzy was fourteen years old. Dizzy and his partner-in-change, Charlie Parker, would have a profound influence on Phil, and Phil in turn would have a deep influence on younger players. Charlie Haden, born August 6,1937, remembers slipping into an older brother's room to listen to Parker and Gillespie records during the 1940's, when Diz and Bird were expanding the vocabulary of jazz in a music that, for better or worse, became known as bebop.
Benny Golson said of Dizzy, "He was always didactic. Really. He was a teacher without even intending to be."
Yet John Birks Gillespie is unbelievably self-effacing about, his enormous pedagogic effect in jazz. As he arrived for this recording, I told Dizzy, "Everybody I've talked to, Phil Woods, Benny Golson, Art Farmer, said you have always been a great teacher. I remember Nat Adderley said once, “Dizzy's the greatest teacher in the world if you don't let him know he's doing it.”
"Is it true? I don't know about that," he said, and there was a shy embarrassment about him. This was no affectation of modesty; this was genuine humility. "But what little I do know, I'll give it, any time. So I guess it's not actually someone with a whole lot of knowledge giving it out to people. But anything I learned, I'll tell somebody else. That's what they mean by that. I will tell anything that I've learned."
Phil Woods said, "I met Dizzy-in 1956, when we did a State Department tour, first stop Abadan, Iran; next stops Aleppo and Damascus, Syria; then Beirut, Lebanon. All the trouble spots, all the places that are now on fire, the State Department sent Dizzy. I think if they'd sent him one more time, he could have cooled it out.”
"They loved the music. They didn't understand the jazz part, but 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."
Phil's view of Dizzy's rhythmic influence was echoed by Flora Purim, who, with her husband Airto, had just returned from a European tour with Dizzy. Flora said, "It was great working with Dizzy. Dizzy is one of the greatest teachers. He shows you ways of handling life. When he goes onstage, and the music changes, it's so easy, so humorous. Everything is a laugh, it's fun, and if it's not fun, he doesn't want to do it. He's been a big inspiration to us lately. During the past year we've been touring with him."
Romero Lubambo, an excellent young guitarist from Brazil, talked of Dizzy's influence on his country's music. He said, "The whole time I was in Brazil, I liked to listen to American musicians to learn how to improvise, how to play jazz. Now I am playing with the greatest musicians in the world, I. think. For me, it is fantastic. We used a lot of the American know-how of jazz improvising. For me, American jazz and Brazilian music are sympatico."
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 obeissance. 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."-
The music resumed. Tito Puente and Airto began to cook, Latin rhythm swirled around John Birks Gillespie. He took up his Rhythmstick, and tapped it on (he floor, and shook it in the air, this remarkable man who can make music on a stick.
1. Caribe, a composition by Michel Camilo, opens with a -piano solo by Hilton Ruiz and Brazilian forest sounds. Actually they are coming from the collection of percussion instruments used, and in some cases invented, by Airto.'Then Dizzy shows how at home he is in the complexities of Latin rhythms. The burning tenor solo is by Bob Berg.
2. Friday Night at the Cadillac Club is a piece Bob Berg wrote to recall a rough-and-ready New Jersey nightclub where he used to work. He plays the tenor solo, which is followed by a hot but pretty trumpet solo by Art Farmer, then some typically all-out alto by Phil Woods, earthy guitar from Robben Ford, and a steaming organ solo by Jim Beard.
3. Quilombo. It is more than twenty-five years since the bossa nova movement burst on the United States and we became familiar with the propulsive character of Brazilian guitar and percussion. That sound is still there, but a good many younger songwriters and singers have come up, one of the most exciting being Gilberto Gil. This is his song. The guitar is that of Romero Lubambo, the voices are led by Flora Purim. Phil Woods plays eight bars leading into a duet with Bob Berg. Airto shouts encouragement from behind his percussion instruments, and then Art Farmer comes in again. As Dizzy said, "Art Farmer plays so pretty,"
4. Barbados. This is a blues by Charlie Parker and, appropriately, Phil Woods, one of his most brilliant successors, leads it off. The bassist is the wonderful Charlie Haden, another of the universalists who have grown up in jazz.
5. Waiting for Angela is an exquisite ballad by Toninho Horta, with lyrics by Flora Purim. Bob Berg plays the soprano saxophone obligate and solo. The lovely synthesizer work is that of Jim Beard.
6. Nana is by the outstanding Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and composer Moacir Santos. One of the things Santos has done is to draw such American influences as bugaloo into the music of Brazil. This is an example of this land of alloy. Bob Berg and Phil Woods are featured. Jim Beard plays the funk-filled piano solo.
7. Softly as in a Morning Sunrise is from the 1928 musical The New Moon. Creed Taylor drily commented, as Art Farmer and Romero Lubambo began it, "You know, Sigmund Romberg didn't write this as a samba," But it works beautifully that way. This track occurred utterly impromptu at the session. Art plays flugelhorn, his usual instrument in recent years.
8. Colo de Rio is by Enio Flavio Mol and Marcelo Ferreira. The amazing thing is the facility and intonation with which Flora negotiates the high-speed syllables. Phil Woods, Art Fanner, Bob Berg, and Romero Lubambo are soloists, with lovely synthesizer effects from Jim Beard.
9. Palisades in Blue is by Benny Golson, the widely admired—and widely played—jazz composer who co-led the celebrated Jazztet with Art Farmer. After many years as a film and television composer, Benny—who arranged this album—has returned full-time to the jazz world. This tune somewhat recalls his earlier and hugely successful -Killer Joe. The soloists are Phil Woods, Art Farmer, Bob Berg, Robben Ford, and Jimmy McGriff.
10. Wamba was written by the African composer Salif Keita. The opening time signature is six:eight, but the song is, in fact, polyrhythmic. Bob Berg, Airto, Flora Purim, Tito Puente, Phil Woods, and Dizzy are featured. Airto and Tito play a percussion duet, followed by Dizzy's Rhythmstick exchanges with Tito's timbales. Dizzy is in the center channel; you can hear him tapping the stick on the floor as the synthesizer comes in. Dizzy picks up his famous trumpet and becomes the center of it all; he has been for more than forty years, this American national treasure.”
The following video feature my favorite track from Rhythmstick [CTI R2 79477], Bob Berg’s Friday Night at the Cadillac Club with Bernard Purdie’s pulsating backbeats powering everyone to exciting flights of solo fancy.